The Youngkin administration reformulates the policies of transgender students

The Youngkin administration reformulates the policies of transgender students

The administration of Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin rewrote Virginia’s model policies for treating transgender students, publishing guidelines for school divisions that would override some accommodations and tighten parental notification requirements.

The Virginia Department of Education’s new model policies, which were posted online Friday, say that students’ participation in certain school programs and the use of school facilities such as bathrooms or locker rooms should be based on their biological sex, with changes offered only. to the extent required by federal law. The policies also say that underage students must be indicated by name and pronouns in their official records, unless a parent approves of using something else.

Regarding parental notification, the guidelines state that school divisions may not encourage teachers to hide a student’s gender information from his or her parents. And they argue that parents must be given the opportunity to object before gender-related counseling services are offered.

The guide is subject to a 30-day public comment period which opens at the end of the month. Therefore, in accordance with a 2020 state law, local school boards must adopt policies “consistent” with those of the department but which may be “more comprehensive,” the document says.

Macaulay Porter, a spokesman for Youngkin, said in a statement to the media that the updated policy “allows for the governor’s commitment to preserve parental rights and uphold the dignity and respect of all public school students.”

The revisions mark a clear departure from the guidelines first issued in 2021 during the administration of Democratic Governor Ralph Northam. These guidelines state that schools should allow students to use gender nouns and pronouns that reflect their gender identity without “any substantial proof”. They also stated that students could participate in programming and access facilities in a way that is consistent with their gender identity and urged schools to consider sharing information about students’ gender identity with parents on a case-by-case basis. considering the health and safety of students.

The updated guidelines state that school divisions must ensure that no student is discriminated against or harassed on the basis of their gender and should “attempt to cater to students with distinct needs, including any student with a persistent and sincere belief that their gender is different. hence his sex. “

Toilets and single-user facilities should be made available in accessible areas and equipped with adequate signage, indicating accessibility for all students, the guidelines state.

Conservative lawmakers and advocacy groups welcomed the changes.

“We are thrilled to see Governor Youngkin lead our schools towards respecting the privacy and dignity of all students and the prominent role of parents in their children’s lives,” said Victoria Cobb, president of The Family Foundation.

Democrats and LGBTQ advocacy groups, meanwhile, have criticized Youngkin, saying the changes would harm vulnerable children.

The new policy “calls for misgendering and the release of children to schools where they should be safe. Absolutely shameful, “Democrat Del Mike Mullin tweeted. Senate Democrats, in a collective statement, called the move” a veritable violation of Virginian civil rights “and said it perpetuated” the national MAGA playbook. to erase any inference of diversity, equity or inclusion in our communities “.

Some LGBTQ supporters have suggested that the changes could be challenged in court. The Virginia ACLU said it was “shocked” by the review, was reviewing the proposal and would have “more to say in the days to come”.

Virginia’s initial guidance was developed in accordance with a 2020 bipartisan law, which required the Department of Education to develop policies related to the treatment of transgender students in public schools and make them available to local school boards. The school boards were therefore directed to adopt policies “consistent with” the model policies of the state.

But many school boards have never complied, according to a recent analysis by Equality Virginia, an LGBTQ advocacy group. A spokesperson for the Department of Education told Virginia Mercury last year that the agency wasn’t even tracking which divisions were meeting the standards.

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