Hanover County Public Schools discuss changes to transgender student policies

Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 6:26 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 12, 2021 at 11:18 PM EDT
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HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - A month after school divisions around Virginia were to adopt changes to their policies involving transgender and non-binary students, Hanover County Public Schools discussed it Tuesday night.

The changes were to be made after bills passed in the General Assembly in 2020, which protect transgender students from discrimination.

School divisions were meant to change their policies for things like bathroom and lockerroom use based on model policies put out by the Virginia Department of Education.

Ola Hawkins, chair of the Hanover County School Board, said the board realized how complicated the changes were and took time at the board’s retreat at the end of September to go more in-depth.

During the meeting, tempers flared and all 10 people who wanted to speak had the chance to address the board.

“I do not want to hear that I am overreacting because I am the not only parent who is scared for their child,” Sabrina Sivil said.

Some people there were in favor of the DOE requiring school divisions to enact transgender policies.

“Do the right thing by accepting these students because they aren’t going anywhere,” Vilma Seymour said.

Some people there were also against the policies.

“You’re putting these students at risk of being molested, sexually assaulted, or even raped. This does not scream safe to me or the majority of Hanover county parents,” Jennifer Reya said.

Shannon McKay, with the organization He, She, Ze, and We, says she works with families in the county who have transgender students and says not having the policy implemented puts them at risk.

“They really can’t feel safe, or just healthy, in their school when they’re worried about what someone might say or how they’re going to be treated,” McKay said. “Especially being misgendered using the wrong name or pronouns - that is really just a part of who they are.”

Some Hanover parents like Todd Gathje, who is part of the Family Foundation Action, disagree with the change in policy.

“Well, as a father of young girls, my concern is that these policies could open the door for their bodily privacy and their safety to be jeopardized when they’re in the locker room for example,” Gathje said.

Gathje says he hopes the division takes even more time when discussing the policy changes because of how it not only impacts students but also families.

A spokesperson for the school division said changes were only up for discussion, but a vote could happen at the next meeting in November.

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