Groups react to new model policies for transgender students in Virginia

Published: Jul. 19, 2023 at 7:20 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - The Virginia Department of Education has released new model policies for transgender students in the state’s public schools. And reaction continues to reflect the sharp divide on this issue.

One one hand, Governor Glenn Youngkin and supporters say the new policy affirms parental rights. On the other, critics of the policy say it will subject transgender students to discrimination and abuse.

The transgender model policies the Virginia Department of Education released Tuesday afternoon have been in the works for over a year. Governor Youngkin says they keep parents at the center of their children’s education.

“I do firmly believe and know that parents love children and in difficult moments where there are really tough life decisions that need to be made, parents should be engaged in their children’s lives and we need children to be engaged with their parents.”

Todd Gathje is Vice President of Government Relations for the Family Foundation.

“We’re very thankful and pleased that Governor Youngkin has stood by his promise to make sure these policies upheld important protections for parental rights.”

Gathje said the Youngkin administration struck the right balance.

“They seek to respect the dignity of all students, but they also make sure that parents are in the driver’s seat of making critical and important decisions regarding the education and health of their children,” he said.

Wyatt Rolla is Senior Transgender Rights Attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia.

“The Virginia Department of Education opted to move forward with model policies that still at best, invite, and really at worst, requiring discrimination against trans students in violation of state and federal law,” Rolla said in an interview with WDBJ7.

Rolla said the model policies released this week are no better than the draft proposal, which was met with widespread criticism in 2022.

“They prohibit school districts from protecting trans students against forced outing to their parents before they’re ready and it may not be safe at home,” Rolla said. “These model policies are still limiting restroom access that is consistent with a student’s gender identity which is in direct tension with federal law, a case Grimm v. Gloucester decided right here in Virginia. They’re continuing to erect additional barriers to transgender and non-binary students accessing counseling services.”

The focus of the debate now shifts from Richmond to the local level, as school boards consider the issue, and the policies they must adopt for their school divisions.