Virginia Department of Education releases new policies for transgender students
VDOE new guidelines give parents more say in their child’s school experience and outline how transgender and nonbinary students should be treated in schools.
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The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) moved forward with controversial model policies released Tuesday concerning the treatment of transgender and nonbinary students in schools and requires students to use school facilities that match their biological sex.
“The Virginia Department of Education recognizes that each child is a unique individual with distinctive abilities and characteristics that should be valued and respected,” the VDOE states at the beginning of the Model Policies document. “All students have the right to attend school in an environment free from discrimination, harassment, or bullying.”
The new guidelines introduced in“Model Policies on Ensuring Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools,” emphasize parents' fundamental rights to be involved in their child’s education and make it challenging for students to change pronouns at school without parental consent, or if a student is 18 or older, provides written permission.
“These policies provide families the opportunity to weigh in on their child’s decisions and be a partner in their education,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Coons said in a statement. “We encourage all school divisions to review the policies and implement them into their local policies in collaboration with their school boards and community stakeholders.”
The Washington Post reports that the earlier version of this draft was “put on hold to review tens of thousands of public comments, many of them opposing the guidelines.” The final model has similar language to the draft shared last fall and goes into effect Wednesday, July 19, according to the document.
Each Virginia School system is required to adopt its policy, adhering to the guidelines provided in the model that also addresses bathroom usage, stating that “where state or federal law requires schools to permit transgender students to share otherwise sex-segregated facilities (such as bathrooms or locker rooms) with students of the opposite sex, parents should be given the right to opt their child out of using such facilities, and the child should be given access to alternative facilities that promote the child’s privacy and safety.”
“These policies clarify that parents are the appropriate decision-makers regarding their child’s health and wellbeing and that students, are best served when parents, teachers, and school administrators work as a team to support a child’s education, wrote Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera in a press release. “They also affirm that discrimination and bullying of any kind will not be tolerated in Virginia’s public schools.”
The 2023 Model Policies address four main tenets: respecting all students; parents have the right to make decisions with respect to their children; serving the needs of all students; and schools partnering with parents as “a child’s primary and most important educator.”
“All children in Virginia deserve to have a parent engaged in their life and to be treated with dignity and respect. The VDOE updated model policies reaffirm my administration’s continued commitment to ensure that every parent is involved in conversations regarding their child’s education, upbringing, and care,” said Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) in a statement Tuesday. “Public comment, input, and concerns were carefully evaluated and assessed to formulate the updated model policies. The Department of Education has delivered policies that empower parents, prohibit discrimination, create a safe and vibrant learning environment by addressing bullying incidents immediately, and protect the privacy and dignity of all students through bathroom policies, athletic procedures, and student identification measures.”