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VDOE: All public schools required to have inclusive policy for transgender students by Fall 2021

Comes following 2020 legislation passed by the General Assembly
Published: Jun. 24, 2021 at 6:11 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Changes are ahead for public school systems across Virginia to create a more inclusive environment for transgender and non-binary students.

This is a requirement at the direction of the Virginia Department of Education following legislation approved by the General Assembly in 2020.

Discussions are already happening across the Commonwealth.

Loudoun County saw a large turnout at its heated school board meeting this week. It resulted in an unlawful assembly being declared during public comment on the discussion related to policy changes and the treatment of transgender students.

“Yeah, I think what you saw was a lot of passion,” said Josh Hetzler, Legislative Counsel for The Family Foundation.

“To me, what happened in Loudoun is a pattern of what we’ve seen across the state since the VDOE rolled out this policy,” said DeHaven Mays, Director of School Programs for Side by Side.

In March a “model policy” was rolled out for public school boards to follow.

“The 2020 legislation requires local school boards to ‘adopt policies that are consistent with but maybe more comprehensive than the model policies developed by the Virginia Department of Education by the start of the 2021-2022 school year,” said VDOE spokesman Charles Pyle.

“A lot of the youth that I work with they aren’t involved in a lot of clubs, they don’t do a lot of social things because they just don’t feel safe and comfortable,” Mays said. “So, to be able to have a policy like this that makes it just hey - we’re all on the same page, let’s work together – I’m hoping youth can find more community.”

Some of those revised policies include:

  • Schools shall allow students to use a name and gender pronouns that reflect their gender identity without any substantiating evidence
  • Access to facilities such as restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to a student’s gender identity shall be available to all students

However, not everyone agrees with these required changes.

“We’re encouraging them (school boards) to number one protect every child under their care, that’s their first duty,” Hetzler said. “Secondly, they need to protect the constitutional rights of students, parents, teachers.”

The Family Foundation believes several of the policies mentioned in VDOE’s model policy violate Virginian’s constitutional rights.

Meanwhile, Henrico County Public Schools introduced some revisions to its own policies during Thursday’s school board work session; several of those wording revisions pertain to student recordkeeping. The approval of these changes will not happen until the end of August.

While Mays and Hetzler’s groups may have opposing positions on these policies, both agree school board discussions concerning this topic need to stay civil.

“I think it’s about having these grounded, informed conversations just to learn and continue to learn and never assume that we as humans, adults, know everything because we don’t,” Mays said.

“I think we would all do better if we all would listen to one another; no matter what side you are on,” Hetzler said. “I think we can get to a place of understanding and perhaps agreement if we just listened to one another.”

Meanwhile, The Founding Freedoms Law Center along with The Family Foundation filed a lawsuit at the end of March seeking an injunction against the implementation of VDOE’s “Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools.”

The group hopes to have some sort of decision from the court in the near future.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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