VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Several large school divisions, including Virginia Beach, have said they aren’t going to adopt the new model policies outlining guidance on how transgender and non-binary students should be treated in Virginia schools.
Virginia leaders haven’t provided clarity on what happens to districts that don’t adopt the policies, but the Attorney General said today school boards across the Commonwealth should support and implement them.
The LGBT Life Center said students in their youth programs are concerned about what these policies could do to schools. They fear support will be lost for transgender and nonbinary students in Virginia classrooms.
“I think the anxiousness and the anxiety that it causes for kids who already don’t necessarily feel safe in schools, I think that’s where I have the biggest concern,” said LGBT Life Center CEO Stacie Walls.
Earlier this week Virginia Beach’s school board voted not to follow Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s model policy — which are meant to place focus on parental involvement in a child’s experience at school.
Five board members voted in favor of following the model policy, five voted against and one board member abstained.
But Virginia Beach is just one of several divisions in the Commonwealth who have voted not to follow it.
Walls said because students spend so much time in school, it’s important for classrooms to be a safe space for them.
She said transgender and nonbinary students in their youth programs are really anxious about these policies and how it will impact them.
She fears that if schools are forced to adopt these model polices, it will cause students to drop out of school.
“Overwhelmingly trans students, nonbinary students want to feel safe in school,” Walls said. “They want to go to school, they want to be welcomed at school and these policies are completely against that.”
She said these policies don’t take into account the individuality of schools or what students want.
“Forcing these policies onto school districts and onto families and students without regard to what they want and what they need, it definitely is a different kind of governing than what the commonwealth has had in the last several years,” said Walls.
Youngkin was asked about the model policies at the capitol this week he said in part, “These model policies should not be challenging for folks. i do believe there are more politics than there are practicality in this and then finally its the law. the code was passed by the general assembly and signed by a governor that requires a governor to issue model policies and for school boards to adopt model policies consistently though. they really don’t have a choice.”
Governor Youngkin says the model policies are based in the principle of parents being in charge of their children’s lives.
“This is a moment for us to step back and recognize that the previous model policies didn’t do that. they pushed parents out of the equation as opposed to inviting them into the equation and putting them at the head of the table,” said Youngkin.
Virginia Beach and Fairfax County are just two of the several districts across the commonwealth that have chosen not to implement the model policies. Governor Glenn Youngkin says schools don’t really have a choice.
“These are the same boards that fought us on whether their child wears a mask or not. these are the same school boards that fought on whether we should be able to remove sexually explicit materials from curriculum when a parent says its not consistent with our family values. I think they were wrong on all these issues and I think they’re wrong here and eventually will get it right,” said Youngkin.
Walls says trans and non-binary students want to go to school and feel welcome in school and these policies are completely against that.
“To say that school board members need to do this and schools must adhere to these policies. its not taking into account the individuality of communities and the individuality of schools and so we really want to make sure that students are the primary component here and these policies are contradictory to that,” said Walls.
Attorney General Jason Miyares is encouraging school divisions across the Commonwealth to support and implement the model policies, saying, “It’s not just common sense, it’s the law.”
“This is really back in to the hands of the parents,” Miyares said. “They have a right to bring a claim against the school district. We’ll evaluate every case by a case-by-case basis, but that’s a risk every school board takes because they are under Virginia code. They are required to comply with all state and federal laws.”
Miyares said these model policies comply with the Equal Protection Clause, Title IX and the Virginia Human Rights Act and said “no parent signs up to co-parent with the government.”
“The governor’s model policies say you can not cut the parent out,” Miyares said. “If a child and parent reach that decision together, then they can notify the school district but you can’t decide to change the child’s pronoun and then never decide to tell the parent. That is a huge decision.”
Youngkin and Miyares say parents have the right to petition the court if they don’t agree with a school board’s decision, but won’t say if something will happen to school divisions that don’t comply.