Newport News School Board reverses course, votes to approve protections for transgender, nonbinary students

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — After revisiting the proposal to adopt Virginia’s guidelines on transgender and nonbinary students, the Newport News School Board has reversed course from its original decision to deviate from the state.

In a 4-3 vote Thursday night, the Newport News School Board voted to pass the transgender and nonbinary model policy outlined by the state. This decision came after a 4-3 vote to reconsider the policy following a presentation by school administration on how some of the procedures within the policy would work.

The school board made the decision during a special meeting and will spend the next few weeks fleshing out details within the model policy.

The meeting was scheduled to potentially reconsider adopting state guidelines that ensure protections for certain students, including 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 also encourages the use of name and gender pronouns the students use under the policy.

The board faced backlash from some after it failed to adopt “Policy JB, Equal Educational Opportunities” earlier this month. At the time, 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.”

During Thursday night’s meeting, Gavin Grimm also spoke and urged the board to adopt the state’s policy. Grimm sued his home school district in Gloucester County over its discriminatory bathroom policy. Grimm is transgender and was not allowed to use the men’s room while attending school there.

The Gloucester County School Board has also agreed to pay $1.3 million in legal costs to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the Grimm case.

Newport News is one of several school divisions across the state that initially declined to adopt the state’s guidelines.

On Aug. 23, Chesapeake Public Schools declined to vote on changing its policy to align with that of the state.

On Aug. 24, the Virginia Beach School Board postponed a vote on the policy. The policy was listed as an action item in the agenda but because of the school board’s by-laws, every policy must be reviewed before it can be voted on in a future meeting. The board is expected to vote on the model policy during its Sept. 14 meeting.

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.

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