Under new “model policy” for schools’ treatment of transgender students released Friday night, the Department of Education is requiring families to file legal documentation to give their children the right to change names and genders at school. The guidelines also say that teachers cannot be forced to refer to transgender students by name and gender if doing so violates “their constitutionally protected” freedom of expression.
And the guidelines say schools cannot “encourage or instruct teachers to hide material information about a student from the student’s parent, including information related to gender” — raising the prospect that teachers could be forced to transgender students to their parents.
School districts must adopt the new state guidelines, or “more comprehensive policies,” after a 30-day comment period beginning Sept. 26, the Department of Education said. The Board of Education does not need to vote to establish the policy.
“This model policy for 2022 reflects the Department’s confidence in parents to exercise prudential use of their fundamental right under the Fourteenth Amendment and the Virginia Constitution to direct the upbringing, education and control of their children,” the statement read. guidelines. “This primary role of parents is well established and beyond discussion. Empowering parents is essential to improve outcomes for children.”
The model policy reverses guidelines published in 2021 by the government of Governor Ralph Northam (D). Those guidelines required transgender students to have access to restrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities that match their gender identity, required schools to allow students to participate in sports and programs that matched their gender identity, and required school districts and teachers to accept students’ gender and use pronouns. and identities without a doubt.
In their own guidelines, officials from the Youngkin administration wrote that Northam’s guidance sought “cultural and social transformation in schools” and “ignored parental rights”. The Youngkin Guidelines state that Northam-era policies are dead: they “have no further strength and effect.”
The Northam Guidelines were developed in accordance with a 2020 law proposed by Democratic lawmakers that required the Virginia Education Department to develop model policies — and later required all school districts to adopt them — for the protection of transgender students. The law does not define the specific nature of these policies, but says they must “address common issues affecting transgender students in accordance with evidence-based best practices” and say they must be designed to prevent bullying and harassment of transgender students.
But — in a move likely to pose legal challenges — the Youngkin administration has used that same law to issue its own version of the Education Ministry’s guidelines. The 20-page document released Friday says it will be issued “as required under” 2020 law.
The Youngkin administration is also trying to re-use the period of public inquiry to which the Northam-era rules were subjected. Those guidelines, as usual, were online for weeks for the public to share their responses.
The Friday document states that Youngkin’s guidelines were developed by “taking into account the more than 9,000 comments received during the public comment period” for Northam-era policies.
“The Model 2022 Policy released today fulfills the governor’s promise to preserve parental rights and uphold the dignity and respect of all public school students,” Macaulay Porter, spokeswoman for Youngkin, said in a written statement. . “It is not within the purview of any school or government to impose a set of certain ideological beliefs on all students.”
The response from Democratic lawmakers was swift.
“This new policy is cruel and not based on evidence at all,” tweeted Del. Marcus Simon, co-sponsor of the Northam-era law. “If this policy is implemented, it will harm the children of Virginia. Stop bullying kids to score political points.”
The governor’s allies praised the proposal. “Thank you @GovernorVA for solving one of the most far-reaching and insulting uses of a ‘model policy’ I’ve seen,” tweeted GOP Del. Glen Davis. “This new standard ensures that all students have the right to attend school in an environment free of discrimination, harassment and bullying.