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Several Virginia school districts are bucking Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin’s new model school policies that require schools to treat trans-identifying students more in line with their biological sex.
Earlier this month, the Virginia Education Department released its updated model policies, which aim to provide “clear and useful guidance” to local school boards.
The updated policies state that school staff should refer to students with the pronouns matching the sex on their official records, and staff may only refer to students by a new name or pronoun if their parents have given the school written permission.
The policies also state that trans-identifying students should use the school bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their biological sex unless federal law requires otherwise, in which case parents of other students should be given the right to opt their child out of using those facilities.
The policies emphasize that “parents have the right to make decisions with respect to their children” and say that “schools shall respect parents’ values and beliefs.”
“Practices such as compelling others to use preferred pronouns is premised on the ideological belief that gender is a matter of personal choice or subjective experience, not sex,” the policies read. “Many Virginians reject this belief. Additionally, the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom and prohibits compelling others to affirm ideas that may be contrary to their personal religious beliefs.”
Arlington Public Schools said it will not be complying with the new policies.
“We have reviewed the model policies and determined that our current policies and policy implementation procedures that protect the rights of our transgender students will stay as is,” Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán said in a statement last week.
He defended Arlington’s policies, saying they comply with previous court decisions and the Constitution.
“Moreover, they are in alignment with decisions from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1973, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. I oppose any policy that infringes upon the rights of our students and threatens the safety and well-being of our LGBTQIA+ students,” Durán said.
Alexandria City Public Schools, a district just outside Washington, D.C., also appeared to reject the model policies this week, with the superintendent saying she was “dismayed” when the policies were introduced.
“[W]e want to reaffirm our commitment to all students, staff and families, including our LGBTQIA+ community, that ACPS will continue to both implement and develop gender affirming policies for all ACPS students,” Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt and School Board Chair Michelle Rief said in a joint statement on Monday.
They said the district already has a policy adopted in 1996 that “protects students from discrimination due to gender expression, gender identity, sexual harassment and transgender status.”
The Stafford County and Fairfax County public school districts also already have policies on the books that do not comply with the Youngkin administration’s new guidelines.
Loudoun County and Prince William County Public Schools are reportedly currently reviewing the new model policies.
Youngkin’s office placed the onus on school districts to “follow the law.”
“The law states Virginia Department of Education shall provide and school boards shall adopt. The Virginia Department of Education has fulfilled its responsibility to develop the model polices, school boards are expected to follow the law,” Macaulay Porter, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Thursday in an emailed statement.
So far, it’s unclear if the school districts will face any penalty for rejecting the administration’s model policies.