CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Chesapeake Public Schools will not start the school year with updated policies addressing the treatment of transgender and nonbinary students, even though state law requires them to.
Monday night, the proposed policies did not even make it to a vote by the Chesapeake School Board. Only board member Dr. Patricia King moved to consider them. Her motion failed due to a lack of a second from another board member.
The changes would have aligned the district with model guidance from the Virginia Department of Education. The policies are meant to set protections for students that identify as transgender or nonbinary by allowing them to use restrooms and other facilities according to their chosen gender identity and play gender-specific sports on the team they identify with.
While what Chesapeake considered passing didn’t go as far as the state’s minimum guidance, a majority of speakers in front of the board attacked the idea for gutting “parental control.”
Those in favor of the policy attacked it as well, with one speaker calling it “watered down with loopholes that allow for micro-discriminations.”
A state law passed by the General Assembly in 2020 requires local school boards to adopt policies consistent with VDOE’s standards no later than the 2021-2022 school year.
The purpose was to try to make schools more inclusive toward a group that’s often subject to discrimination and harassment.
However, the policies have faced strong pushback from conservatives, many faith communities and those who say they value the traditional family.
“When my children are at school, they are students and not the school’s children. My parental authority doesn’t end in the parking lot,” one mother against the policy told the board.
Many speakers also stressed the importance of having a policy, with one woman saying “they should be protected regardless of how they dress.”
Quickly following the lack of a second to King’s motion to approve the policy, Chairwoman Victoria Proffitt read from a prepared statement.
“The school board has received input from many citizens this evening and we have had the opportunity to discuss among ourselves. We have determined we will not take any action on the proposed transgender polices at this time. Which means it is not in effect,” Proffitt said.
The state superintendent of education has said the state will not penalize districts that don’t adopt the policy. But he warned divisions could face the pressure of litigation from families of students.
Chesapeake joins Newport News’ school board in declining to implement the model policies. However, Newport News board members have recently called a special meeting to reconsider the vote.
When asked if Proffitt was concerned about the possible penalties following the meeting, she said “cannot speak on it at this time because we don’t have all those details. The board did go into a closed session to discuss its options with legal council.”
“Transgenders are not pedophiles, they are not sexual predators, they are just people who want to live their lives the way they want to live them and they have every right to do that,” King said following the vote. “I don’t think [transgender students] should be fearful because we will protect all our children but I think the school board let them down.”
There was also a push to defy Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norm Oliver’s order requiring masks to be worn in all K-12 schools.
Many speakers shared misinformation about the effectiveness of face masks while also claiming the order “is not real.”
Board member Christie New Craig then proposed keeping face masks optional for students, just as she did back in July.
However, only vice-chair Colleen Leary and board member Harry Murphy voted with her. The motion failed.
“Well tonight, the Chesapeake School Board under a lot of deliberation and a lot of council, they voted with the majority of the constituents on one item, they did not vote with the majority of constituents on another item,” Proffitt said following the meeting.