Virginia Governor Reverses School Policies On Transgender Rights

Virginia transgender students no longer have access to facilities depending on the gender they align with and staff can no longer hide gender identity from parents.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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Virginia has become one of the growing number of states regulating transgender students’ rights and access to facilities in the school setting. Last week, the Old Dominion State released updated model policies for schools helmed by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration. The new standards were applauded by Republican lawmakers, but ridiculed by state Democrats for reversing the state’s policy of equity and inclusivity for transgender children.

The policy was officially updated and released last Friday. Accommodations regarding transgender facility use of bathroom and locker rooms were revoked. Additionally, parental rights as it pertains to the knowledge and consent of these students were also revised.

Schools are now required to make parents aware if a student confides that they identify with a separate gender to which they were born. Furthermore, school staff is only allowed to refer to these students by the pronouns they now go by if the parent first okay’s it. Otherwise, they must go by the gender listed on the child’s official record.

Teachers are extensively prohibited from keeping secret a transgender student’s gender identity, despite whether or not they wish for their parents to know. Also, parents are required to sign off on any school counseling. Without permission, schools can not offer guidance to students or discuss their feelings regarding their gender affirmations.

Last year, schools were encouraged to accommodate transgender students’ needs under policies championed by the state’s previous Democratic administration. Under previous guidelines, schools were directed to allow them to use gender facilities aligning with their gender identity. Now, schools are prohibiting facility use to only natural-born females or males.

Because of Title IX mandates, the new policy promised to accommodate transgender children and their facility needs in another way. Schools are still required to offer single-use bathrooms to these students. Specifically, the policy calls for clear signage that labels such restrooms as being accessible for all students.

Now that the model policies updates are approved, the new guidance has a 30-day public comment period which will begin at the end of September. Even before the period of contention begins, some Democratic lawmakers began to express their disdain for the policy’s provisions. They fear it will only serve to harm transgender students.

Democratic Virginia State Delegate Mike Mullen lambasted the measure on social media. He asserted that it would lead to further bullying of transgender kids. He also fears it will take away the chance for much-needed support from authoritative figures in schools.

But on the other hand, conservative politicians and advocacy groups praised the model policy. Victoria Cobb, the president of The Family Foundation said this will uplift privacy and dignity for transgender students and their families. A spokeswoman for Youngkin added that the new model delivered on the governor’s promise to preserve parental rights in education, according to reports from The Associated Press.

All across the country, the nation remains divided on the matters of transgender students and their rights in the school setting. Just as some look to preserve the rights of natural-born children, opposers of these policies fear it is placing harmful targets on a minority group of kids. But for now, millions of Virginia families are likely praising the updates, hoping that the extensive policy will lead to better school transparency.