Virginia guidelines limiting rights for transgender students delayed

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An ordinance that would restrict the rights of transgender students in Virginia schools will not go into effect until at least the end of November, according to the state Department of Education.

Known as the “model policies,” the guidelines were released by Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration in September. He ordered all 133 school districts in the state to adopt guidelines directing transgender students to school facilities and programs that match their birth gender. It also states that students who wish to change their name or gender in official school records can only do so if their family submits legal documents, and that school staff cannot refer to students by the desired name or pronoun unless their parents request the change in writing. .

The order could have taken effect as early as Thursday, after the end of a 30-day public comment period on the measure. But Jillian Balow, superintendent of public instruction, said the education department would take time to review the feedback and possibly make recommendations based on the feedback, said Charles Pyle, a spokesman for the agency. .

However, because the measure has received comments saying the guidelines contradict existing state law, implementation will be delayed an additional 30 days, per a state regulation, Pyle said, referring to the state code. Now, the Education Department will respond to those comments.

Youngkin (R) and supporters of the guidelines said the guidelines aim to ensure parents’ rights and involve them in gender issues. Opponents argue that the policies are illegal and would create dangerous situations for LGBTQ students.

Virginia politics have tried to restrict the rights of transgender students

In the month since the model policies were introduced, reaction from Virginia residents, school districts and organizations has been mixed. The measure received more than 71,000 comments through an online portal, though it’s unclear how many of the people who submitted statements live in Virginia or out of state, Pyle said.

Shelly Arnoldi, who has four students enrolled in Fairfax County Public Schools, said she was glad Youngkin rolled out the new policy because it brought parents into the discussion.

“I can’t believe they had a policy that was different,” Arnoldi, 53, said. calling them by a different name.

Arnoldi, who posted his support on the Feedback Portal, added that Education Department officials should go to school districts to speak directly to parents or interview families for their input, rather than asking each other. press the public comment forum. She said the online process could be subject to activist groups and others, who would not fully represent the voice of parents.

But Bridget Weston, who has a third-grade student at Arlington Public Schools, said the guidelines create “a more dangerous and hostile school environment that really targets a subsection of kids,” Weston said in a statement. interview with The Post. She also commented via the Education Department portal.

Some school systems, including Culpeper County Public Schools, have adopted the guidelines. Last month, Culpeper officials said the system is already compliant, requiring staff to use names and pronouns on a student’s record, and families who want to make changes must submit a request to principals. of their school, among other rules.

But other systems have not been so supportive. In Loudoun County, leaders are reviewing model policies and whether they will require the district to modify its existing protocols, according to a statement. Still, the district “will continue to provide a safe, welcoming, affirming, and academically rigorous learning environment for all students,” the statement said.

Some Virginia districts seem ready to fight the Youngkin plan for trans students

In Alexandria, the city’s school board submitted comments asking that school divisions not be required to enforce the guidelines, said Meagan L. Alderton, president of the group.

“Now that the public comment period is over, we will wait to see the final outcome of this process and any new information we receive from the governor’s administration,” Alderton said, adding that the body was not considering any action. in justice.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia did not say whether it anticipates litigation, but the group said it expects state education officials to closely examine the comments of the audience.

“Those affected – including thousands of students who walked out of school to protest the policies – have been very clear that these policies will cause them obvious harm, and we will be watching closely. [Virginia Department of Education’s] policies to ensure they create safe and welcoming school environments for LGBTQ+ students,” said ACLU-VA Legal Director Eden Heilman.

The national branch of the NAACP also strongly opposed the measure. “A student’s First Amendment right does not end at the school gate,” Robert N. Barnette Jr., president of the group, said in a statement.

Youngkin’s restriction on trans student rights likely illegal, experts say

Of the. Danica A. Roem, the first openly transgender member of the Virginia House of Delegates, said she expects there will be legal action now that the comment period is over.

Democrat Prince William referenced policies put in place just two years ago by Younkin’s Democratic predecessor, Governor Ralph Northam (D). The former governor’s version required transgender students to have access to restrooms, locker rooms, and locker rooms appropriate to their gender identity. It also stipulated that schools allow transgender students to participate in school programs consistent with their gender identity and required that districts and teachers accept and use students’ pronoun and gender identity, no questions asked.

But school boards have been allowed to reject those guidelines, Roem said. “Even if the governor says now, ‘they are mandatory, I expect them to be followed,’ that’s not the precedent he set.”

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