Newport News School Board calls special meeting to reconsider policy on transgender, nonbinary student protections

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — The Newport News School Board is calling a special meeting Aug. 26 to potentially reconsider a policy that would put specific protections for transgender and nonbinary students into place.

The board has faced backlash from some politicians and community members after it failed to adopt “Policy JB, Equal Educational Opportunities” earlier this month.

The policy in question, based on guidance from the Virginia Department of Education, aims to prevent discrimination against transgender and nonbinary students. It sets protections in place such as allowing students to use restrooms and other facilities according to their gender identity and play gender-specific sports on the team they identify with.

The Virginia Department of Education’s policy encourages the use of name and gender pronouns the students use.

Some Newport News School Board members said there were too many outstanding questions about the policy. One said adopting the policy and procedure imposes “a set of beliefs on everyone.”

The guidelines came to fruition after the General Assembly approved the law in 2020. Divisions are expected to adopt the new model policy before the start of this upcoming school year.

However, the state superintendent of education has said the state will not penalize districts that don’t adopt the policy. He warned divisions could face the pressure of litigation from families of students.

The school division in its special meeting announcement said the board would have the option once more to approve the state-outlined policy.

“Following the requested presentation on Policy JB and its accompanying procedures, if the Board approves reconsideration, it may consider a vote to approve Policy JB,” the division said in the meeting announcement.

The special meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 26 in the School Administration Building, 12465 Warwick Boulevard, Newport News. It was called by Vice Chairman Lisa Surles-Law and Board Members Dr. Terri Best, John Eley and Marvin Harris.

Newport News is one of several districts in Hampton Roads that have yet to adopt the model policy. Portsmouth Public Schools voted to implement the changes to its non-discrimination policy in June. Suffolk Public Schools already has a similar policy in place.

Chesapeake and Virginia Beach haven’t voted on the policies.

Norfolk and Hampton did not respond to a request for information.

Stay with WAVY.com for updates.

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