Virginia is pushing back against school districts with what supporters say is a common sense approach to gender. The state released new transgender student guidelines on Sept. 16 in response to growing public frustration with school policies that put biological boys on girls’ sports teams as well as in female locker rooms in addition to other controversial school actions.
It lists the First and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution as primary evidence.
According to the new guidelines, public schools cannot encourage a student’s gender dysphoria without parents’ written requests. In addition, bathroom and locker room use is to be based on students’ sex, defined as the biological sex at birth. Student sports participation should be sex-based as well unless federal laws require otherwise.
The new policies are is a complete reversal of the previous guidelines, which define transgender as a student’s “self-identifying term.” Those old rules, passed by a Democrat state assembly, took effect in March 2021 under former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam. They said schools should not disclose a student’s self-described gender identity to parents. Parents said schools were encouraging children to lie to their parents, and the schools were being dishonest themselves.
The new policies have common ground with the previous rules with regard to ensuring a safe learning environment without bullying, discrimination, or harassment for students.
The new guidelines will enter a 30-day public comment period around Sept. 26 and take effect after the state superintendent approves the final version.
“The 2022 model policy posted delivers on the governor’s commitment to preserving parental rights and upholding the dignity and respect of all public school students,” Macaulay Porter, spokesperson for Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, said in a statement.
“It is not under a school’s or the government’s purview to impose a set of particular ideological beliefs on all students. Key decisions rest, first and foremost, with the parents.
“The previous policies implemented under the Northam Administration did not uphold constitutional principles and parental rights, and will be replaced.”
Loudoun County-based parental rights group Fight for Schools applauded the new policy. “Governor Youngkin promised to put parents back in charge of the care, upbringing, and education of their children. Today, he delivered—big time,” said Ian Prior, executive director of Fight for Schools, said in a statement.
He also had something to say to the school boards, especially his own in Loudoun County: “To the school boards in Virginia, such as the one in Loudoun County, you spent last year telling parents that they had to pass radical anti-parent, transgender policies to match the VDOE’s [Virginia Department of Education] model policy—now you will have to revise those policies based on the law and your own words. So get to work.”
Clint Thomas, a father to Loudoun County schoolchildren, echoed Fight for Schools’ sentiment. He has two daughters, both studying in Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS). Caroline, the elder daughter, is a high school senior and was on the school’s soccer team.
He’s also a plaintiff in a lawsuit against LCPS administrators and school board members, filed by America First Legal (AFL), a nonprofit conservative legal group, on his and 10 other parents’ behalf. At the end of June, the defendants were sued for “promoting secret gender transitions” and “forcing children to change in locker rooms with members of the opposite sex,” according to AFL.
Virginia Del. Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax), who introduced the controversial State House bill that became a 2020 law and the basis of the 2021 rules, said in a tweet on Sept. 16: “These new policies are cruel and not at all evidence-based.”