The Virginia Department of Education on Tuesday released its final model policies for public schools across the state on the treatment of transgender students regarding bathrooms, athletics and the use of pronouns in the classroom — changes Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin says increase the rights of parents when it comes to their children’s upbringing.
Youngkin has argued that the 16-page model policies “on ensuring privacy, dignity and respect for all students and parents in Virginia’s public schools,” released by his administration Tuesday, are intended to prohibit discrimination while also empowering parents.
Encouraging partnership, the document explicitly states while “public schools, teachers, counselors, and administrators also play an essential role,” it is parents who “are a child’s primary and most important educator.” Regarding school restrooms, the updated guidance says, “Single-user bathrooms and facilities should be made available in accessible areas and provided with appropriate signage, indicating accessibility for all students.”
“To ensure that all students have access to a learning environment in which they feel comfortable and safe, 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,” it says. “Eligible students should be given the same right to opt out.”
The model states no policy, guidance, training or other written material issued by the school division may encourage or instruct teachers to conceal material information about a student from the student’s parent, including information related to gender.
Supporters of school “transgender protection measures” are seen during a Loudoun County Public Schools meeting in Ashburn, Virginia, on Aug. 11, 2021. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
School personnel shall refer to a student by a name other than one in the student’s official record, or by pronouns other than those appropriate to the sex appearing in the student’s official record if the student’s parent has instructed school staff in writing that such other name or other pronouns be used. In that case, the model states such written instruction will be memorialized in the student’s official record, but the legal name and sex of a student shall not be changed.
“This is about doing what’s best for the child,” Youngkin said in an interview with The Associated Press. “And oh, by the way, also recognizing that we need to ensure the privacy and dignity and respect of all children and all parents in the school system. And that’s what I think we have… very carefully constructed here.”
The changes have been welcomed by conservative lawmakers and advocacy groups, while some Democratic lawmakers and LGBTQ advocacy groups have strenuously objected, arguing that already vulnerable youth will be further put at risk.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.