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Va. Department of Education releases updated guidelines for transgender, nonbinary students

Equality Virginia accuses Republican governor of targeting LGBTQ youth

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Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-Va.) speaks at a CNN Town Hall on March 9, 2023. (Screen capture via CNN)

The Virginia Department of Education on Tuesday released its updated guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students in the state.

One section of the new guidelines states “schools shall defer to parents to make the best decisions with respect to their children.”

“Parents are in the best position to work with their children and, where appropriate, their children’s health care providers to determine (a) what names, nicknames and/or pronouns, if any, shall be used for their child by teachers and school staff while their child is at school, (b) whether their child engages in any counseling or social transition at school that encourages a gender that differs from their child’s sex, or (c) whether their child expresses a gender that differs with their child’s sex while at school,” they read.

Another section states “schools shall keep parents informed about their children’s well-being.”

“To ensure parents are able to make the best decisions with respect to their child, school personnel shall keep parents fully informed about all matters that may be reasonably expected to be important to a parent, including, and without limitation, matters related to their child’s health, and social and psychological development,” reads the guidelines. “Parents’ rights are affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court that characterized a parent’s right to raise his or her child as ‘perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this court.’ Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65 (2000). This requirement is, of course, subject to laws that prohibit disclosure of information to parents in certain circumstances including, for example, Code of Virginia § 22.1-272.1(B) (prohibiting parental contact where student is at imminent risk of suicide related to parental abuse or neglect.)”

The guidelines further state “schools shall serve the needs of all students” and the Virginia Department of Education “is committed to working with school divisions to ensure a positive, safe and nurturing learning environment for all students.” 

“Each student’s individual needs should be taken into consideration by his or her school, and divisions should develop policies that encourage schools to account for these individual needs, with due sensitivity to the needs of other students and the practical requirements of the teaching and learning environment,” reads the guidelines. “Schools should attempt to accommodate students with distinctive needs, including transgender students. A team of appropriate school staff and other caregivers should collaborate with the student’s parents or with an eligible student to identify and implement such reasonable accommodations or modifications (if any), considering the resources and staff available in the school and school divisions, as well as the rights and needs of other students and of school staff.” 

The guidelines further state “single-user bathrooms and facilities should be made available in accessible areas and provided with appropriate signage, indicating accessibility for all students.” 

“To ensure that all students have access to a learning environment in which they feel comfortable and safe, where state or federal law requires schools to permit transgender students to share otherwise sex-segregated facilities (such as bathrooms or locker rooms) with students of the opposite sex, parents should be given the right to opt their child out of using such facilities, and the child should be given access to alternative facilities that promote the child’s privacy and safety,” reads the guidelines. “Eligible students should be given the same right to opt out.”

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin last September announced plans to revise the guidelines that his predecessor, Democrat Ralph Northam, signed into law in 2020. The Virginia Joint Commission on Administrative Rules late last year formally objected to Youngkin’s proposed revisions.

“All children in Virginia deserve to have a parent engaged in their life and to be treated with dignity and respect. The VDOE updated model policies reaffirm my administration’s continued commitment to ensure that every parent is involved in conversations regarding their child’s education, upbringing and care,” said Youngkin in a statement. “Public comment, input and concerns were carefully evaluated and assessed to formulate the updated model policies. The Department of Education has delivered policies that empower parents, prohibit discrimination, create a safe and vibrant learning environment by addressing bullying incidents immediately, and protect the privacy and dignity of all students through bathroom policies, athletic procedures and student identification measures.”

Equality Virginia, the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, on Tuesday sharply criticized the new guidelines.

“Today, Gov. Youngkin and the VDOE made a dangerous, politically motivated decision to ignore the thousands of Virginians who submitted public comments in opposition to his proposed model policies — policies which single out transgender and nonbinary youth in our schools,” said Narissa Rahaman, the group’s executive director. “Youngkin did all of this with no input from LGBTQ+ advocacy groups nor subject matter experts. Throughout the comment process, though, Virginians made it clear that LGBTQ+ youth deserve safety, respect and the opportunity to thrive.”

The new guidelines can be found here.

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Virginia

New campaign challenges Va. guidelines for transgender, nonbinary students

Students4Trans planning rallies, walkouts across the state

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Students and Pride Liberation Project supporters hold signs supporting transgender rights at Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church, Va., during a Fairfax County School Board meeting in 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A group of Virginia students have launched a campaign that challenges the state’s new guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

The Pride Liberation Project on Sept. 20 announced the formation of Students4Trans.

Students4Trans held a rally outside the Virginia Department of Education in Richmond on Sept. 22. Another rally will take place during the Virginia Beach School Board meeting on Tuesday.

The Virginia Department of Education in July announced the new guidelines for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. The regulations, among other things, require parents to be informed of a student’s name and pronoun change, with the exception of “imminent risk of suicide related to parental abuse or neglect.” 

Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement the guidelines. 

The Spotsylvania County School Board announced last month that students are required to use the bathroom that aligs with their assigned sex, and parents could choose the names and pronouns their children use at school. Two parents in Virginia Beach have filed a lawsuit that seeks to force the city’s school district to implement the new guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

Students4Trans has organized a student walkout on Friday to protest the Spotsylvania County School Board’s new policies.

Michael K. Lavers contributed to this story.

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Virginia

Lawsuit seeks to force Virginia Beach schools to implement state guidelines for trans, nonbinary students

Va. Department of Education released new regulations in July

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(Bigstock photo)

Two parents in Virginia Beach have filed a lawsuit that seeks to force the city’s school district to implement the state’s new guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

NBC Washington on Friday reported Cooper and Kirk, a D.C.-based law firm, filed the lawsuit in Virginia Beach Circuit Court.

The Virginia Department of Education in July announced the new guidelines for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement them. 

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Virginia

Equality Virginia, HRC PACs endorse 21 ‘pro-equality champions’

Democrats have 21-19 majority in Va. Senate

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Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Equality Virginia and the Human Rights Campaign political action committees on Thursday endorsed 21 “pro-equality champions” who are running for the Virginia General Assembly.

State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who is running for the state Senate, is among the candidates who the PAC endorsed. State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and state Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax County) are two of the other endorsed candidates.

“This year in Virginia, we had the most anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in a single legislative session. Time and time again, anti-equality lawmakers and the Youngkin administration have made it clear that they will continue to disrespect and disregard the lives and lived experience of LGBTQ+ people within Virginia,” said Equality Virginia PAC Executive Director Narissa Rahaman. “We must elect pro-equality champions who will secure and strengthen our freedoms. We have that chance as the eyes of the nation are on us this November. The general assembly is a vital check on executive overreach, and that’s why it is so important for us to ensure both chambers are filled with pro-equality members. We’re grateful to the Human Rights Campaign for their steadfast support in Virginia and for helping activate key pro-equality voters across the commonwealth.”

Republicans currently control the House by a 51-46 margin, while Democrats have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate.

In-person early voting begins in Virginia on Sept. 22. The general election takes place on Nov. 7.

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