As Va. school districts split on transgender policies, state enforcement tools appear limited
Last week, Spotsylvania County Public Schools became Virginia’s first school district to adopt controversial state-crafted model policies for the treatment of transgender and non-binary students.
The 4-2-1 decision of the Spotsylvania School Board, made during a chaotic Aug. 14 meeting, was followed by Roanoke County’s adoption of the policies in a similarly heated environment that saw the arrest of one parent for disorderly conduct. But elsewhere in Virginia, other school divisions, including Arlington, Fairfax and Richmond, are refusing to even consider the new policies, first introduced by Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration in September 2022 and finalized this July.
“Calling a student by their chosen name seems like the very least we could do for our kids,” Richmond Public Schools superintendent Jason Kamras said. “We remain committed to our current policies, which were based on the policies put out by [former] Governor [Ralph] Northam.”
These polarized responses reflect just how divided certain Virginia communities are on the issue of how schools should treat transgender students. And, as more districts consider the model policies, questions remain about how much power the state has to enforce them.
Despite hard stances taken by a handful of districts, most have not taken a position at all. According to the ACLU of Virginia, that’s because they don’t have to.
“The law that tasks the Virginia Department of Education with creating these model policies [regarding] the treatment of trans students … that code provision does not have an explicitly articulated enforcement mechanism for districts who do not adopt model policies,” said attorney Wyatt Rolla.
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