In a move that has drawn both praise and criticism, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration announced the finalization of new policies on the treatment of transgender students. Here’s the full story.
Guidelines Are Approved
The guidelines, unveiled last year and subject to public comment, have now been approved, sparking debate and protests from various groups.
Balance Between Empowering Parents and Creating a Safe Learning Environment
According to Governor Youngkin, the finalized policies aim to strike a delicate balance between empowering parents and creating a safe learning environment for all students.
A Change for All
The Republican governor said, “This is about doing what’s best for the child. 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 Access Requirement
The guidelines propose that students’ participation in school programming and access to facilities, such as bathrooms and locker rooms, should be based on the sex assigned at birth.
However, modifications may be offered to the extent required under federal law.
This Is a Change
This marks a departure from the 2021 guidance issued during the previous Democratic Governor Ralph Northam’s administration, which allowed students to use names and gender pronouns reflecting their gender identity without substantiating evidence.
Parents Have the Option
Parents will now have the option to request access to sex-separated facilities for their children if state or federal law mandates schools to allow Trans students to share otherwise sex-segregated facilities with students of the opposite sex.
Pronouns Should Be Approved
Students who are minors must be referred to by the names and pronouns in their official records unless a parent approves the use of something else.
Preventing Teachers From Concealing Information
The guidelines prohibit school divisions from encouraging teachers to conceal information about a student’s gender from their parents.
Communicating the Risk
However, it adds language reminding school divisions to comply with a state law governing communication about a perceived imminent risk of suicide by a student.
Policies Are Potentially Harmful for Transgender and Nonbinary Students
While conservative lawmakers and advocacy groups have praised Governor Youngkin for affirming parental rights, LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers have voiced concerns about the potential harm these policies may cause to transgender and nonbinary students.
This Can Put Trans Youth at Risk
Narissa Rahaman, executive director of Equality Virginia, condemned the decision, arguing that the policies single out transgender and nonbinary youth in schools, potentially putting already vulnerable youth at greater risk.
Despite opposition, the governor believes involving parents in important decisions regarding their children’s education and care is crucial.
Parents Are Paramount
Youngkin said, “I think that there should not be a decision made around a child’s education, their upbringing or their care that … doesn’t start with parents.”
Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Lisa Coons encourages all school divisions to review and implement the finalized policies in collaboration with their local school boards and community stakeholders.
A Matter of Human Rights
Several social media users expressed their thoughts on the incident. One Twitter user wrote, “Whether your child is LGBTQ or not, you are likely to become a grandparent. They are the same as any other human & deserve the same rights.”
“Virginia Legislature Remains Divided”
Another user wrote, “Now it’s possible Youngkin never receives such a bill because the Virginia legislature remains divided or Democrats control both chambers.”
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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock /Drazen Zigic. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.