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Virginia Department of Education Proposal Harms Trans and Gender-Expansive Students, their Families and Educators; Joint Statement in Opposition

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From FCPS Pride, Anti-Defamation League Washington, Transgender Education Association of Greater Washington, Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, GLSEN Northern Virginia, Asian Educators Association of FCPS, Hispanic Educators Association of Fairfax/FCPS, 4 Public Education, Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, Fairfax Education Association.

Virginia Department of Education Proposal Harms Trans and Gender-Expansive Students, their Families and Educators; Joint Statement in Opposition

The changes proposed by Governor Youngkin to Model Polices on Transgender students are damaging to students, families, teachers, businesses and public education.

Transgender and Gender-Expansive students, since the September 16th release date, are already missing school for fear of mistreatment by staff and other students. Reports of suicidal thinking and active self-harm are proliferating. Families are wondering if Virginia will remain a safe place in which to raise their children. Many have expressed that Virginia is telling them that they and their children are suddenly unwelcome here.

Beyond transgender students, LGBTQIA+ people are impacted, and all marginalized folk know that there is a target on them too.

In the first few months of 2020, the Virginia General Assembly passed and the Governor signed a law, Senate Bill 161/House Bill 145 which created VA Code § 22.1-23.3. Treatment of transgender students to ensure that transgender students were supported “in accordance with evidence-based best practices”. In response, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) reached out to LGBTQIA+ supportive organizations and mental health care professionals to create the 2021 “Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools” (2021 Model Policies). These model policies focused on the evidence-based practices required by the law.

On September 16, 2022, the Virginia Department of Education released new guidelines, “2022 Model Policies on the  Privacy, Dignity and Respect for all Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools.” These policies are not evidence-based or based on best practices. In addition they seem to have had no input from transgender, gender-expansive, non-binary, or gender non-conforming individuals or support organizations. Exclusion of the people impacted by the policies ensures the policies will not meet the needs of those impacted.

In these 2022 Model Policies, “all” doesn’t really mean “all.”

These new policies do not meet the wording of the law, and certainly not the intent.

The Youngkin VDOE seems to be targeting trans and non-binary youth specifically to prevent them from being comfortable in school. The 2022 policies:

  • Specifically exclude sexual orientation and gender identity from the “discrimination, harassment, and bullying” policy
  • Require parental permission for a student to speak to a school counselor in any way about their gender
  • Require unreasonable documentation for changing a student’s name and gender in school records
  • Require teachers to misgender students due to an inability to change school records
  • Completely ignore nonbinary students, and that some states allow a nonbinary gender marker on birth certificates
  • Prevent teachers and counselors from doing their jobs and being trustworthy adults for students
  • Address athletics, which was specifically excluded by the law specifically excludes and which the current (2021) Model Policies, in accordance with the law, do not address. The law has not changed, so the inclusion of athletics in the 2022 proposal is puzzling.

The new policies exclude transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming students and ensure an unsafe environment for transgender, gender-expansive, non-binary, and gender non-conforming teachers, administrators, staff, and parents. With all of the discussion in these policies of parental rights, the rights of the parents of students most affected are ignored entirely.

The 2022 Model Policies are inconsistent with section 1.A and section 2 of Senate Bill 161 and the identical House Bill 145 passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor of Virginia on March 4, 2020.. No new legislation has been passed, and the VDOE is not empowered to rewrite state law.

We the undersigned organizations insist that the VDOE withdraw the 2022 Model Policies. We enjoin school boards to retain or enact policies that are consistent with the 2021 Model Policies.

FCPS Pride, Inc.
Contact: Robert Rigby, Jr.
fcpspride@gmail.com

Fairfax County Federation of Teachers
Contact: David Walrod

info@fcft.org

FCPS Asian Educators
Contact on Twitter at @AEA_FCPS
Tori Huynh
vhuynh2@fcps.edu

Hispanic Educators Association of Fairfax
Contact: Manny Gomez Portillo
mdgomezporti@fcps.edu

GLSEN NoVA
Contact: David Aponte, Chair
chapter@nova.glsen.org
4 Public Education
media@4publiceducation.org

Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington
Vicki E Fishman, Esq.
Director, Virginia and DC Government  and Community Relations
JCRC of Greater Washington
301-348-7366
vfishman@jcouncil.org

Anti-Defamation League, Washington DC
Contact: Rachel Lang, Associate Regional Director
(202) 961-6712
rlang@adl.org

Transgender Education Association of Greater Washington
tgeaw@gmail.com

Fairfax Education Association
Leslie Houston, President
president@fairfaxea.org

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