Gov. Youngkin unveils administration’s plan to replace Virginia’s transgender student policies

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration unveiled its draft model policies to replace the state’s current policies for transgender and nonbinary students in public schools.

The draft policies released by Youngkin’s administration on Friday — the “Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for all Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools” — state that school personnel will refer to students using pronouns “appropriate to the sex” appearing on their official record and changes to those records can only come after a legal document is provided to the school division.

Youngkin’s policies would require parents to be “fully informed” on school matters they consider important and says school staff can use pronouns that conform to a student’s gender identity if an eligible student — 18 years old or over or someone under 18 who is emancipated — or a guardian has submitted a notice to the division.

But school personnel will not be required to address or refer to a student “in any manner that would violate their constitutionally protected rights” under the policy.

The draft policy also calls for single-user bathrooms and facilities to be made available in accessible areas but does not mention letting transgender students use facilities that match their gender identity.

The current model guidelines from the Virginia Department of Education call for students to be allowed to use pronouns, school bathrooms and locker rooms that reflect their gender identity. They also state that schools should “not disclose a student’s gender identity to other students or parents.”

The 2022 draft model policies’ guiding principles include an emphasis on parental rights, an issue Youngkin campaigned on and continues to champion. The principles listed include:

  • Parents have the right to make decisions with respect to their children
  • Schools shall serve the needs of all students
  • Schools shall partner with parents
  • Schools shall respect all students

Youngkin’s 2022 draft model policies add that the change came after the Virginia Department of Education “embarked on a thorough review” of the current model policies for the treatment of transgender students in public schools.

“The 2021 Model Policies promoted a specific viewpoint aimed at achieving cultural and social transformation in schools,” the 2022 model policies states. “The 2021 Model Policies also disregarded the rights of parents and ignored other legal and constitutional principles that significantly impact how schools educate students, including transgender students.”

Public comment on the draft policies will open in late September, according to the department. An official in the governor’s office told 8News that the administration expects the official public comment period to open on Sept. 26.

“With the publication of these 2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools (the “2022 Model Policies”), the Department hereby withdraws the 2021 Model Policies, which shall have no further force and effect,” the draft model policies adds.

On the subject of athletics, the guidance says, “any athletic program or activity that is separated by sex, the appropriate participation of students shall be determined by sex.” A school district can provide “reasonable modifictations,” but only to the extent required by federal law.

The new model policy is expected to take effect after 30 days of public comment, the official told 8News on Friday.

“The 2022 model policy posted today delivers on the governor’s commitment to preserving parental rights and upholding the dignity and respect of all public school students,” Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter 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.”

State lawmakers passed a law in 2020 requiring all school districts to adopt guidelines crafted by the Virginia Department of Education regarding transgender and nonbinary students by the start of the 2021-22 school year.

Under the 2020 law, school boards in Virginia were required to adopt rules “that are consistent with but may be more comprehensive than” the model guidance from VDOE. Despite the state law, data shows that few school districts have fully embraced the model policies.

“It’s not surprising that Governor Youngkin has decided to pick on trans kids as a way to sort of score political points but it’s still disappointing,” Del. Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax), one of the lawmakers who sponsored the legislation in 2020, told 8News’ Jackie DeFusco on Friday.

Simon also said he doesn’t believe the policy is in line with the enabling legislation that was passed two years.

“This policy doesn’t come close to complying with either the letter or the spirit of the law that we passed in 2020, which was supposed to be evidence-based, best practices to provide a supportive environment for kids that were transgender,” Simon added. “This policy does none of those things. It goes, in fact, in the opposite direction. And I think it’s ultimately going to be harmful to kids in our schools if it’s enacted.”



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