Last week, Glenn Youngkin’s Department of Education released their so-called “Model Policies on Ensuring Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students” which does everything but respect the privacy and dignity of Virginia’s students and families.
Some have renamed the policies the “Don’t Be Trans” policies, alluding to the fact that the Youngkin “model” policies arrive in the wake of hundreds of bills and policies across the nation targeting LGBTQIA students. To add insult to injury, Youngkin’s policies literally remove the word “transgender” from the title of 2021 policies governing treatment of transgender students, as if to remove the identities and bodies of transgender and gender-expansive students from public education.
Fortunately some school systems–including Fairfax County, Stafford County, Alexandria, and Arlington –immediately declined implementation of the "Don’t Be Trans “model” policies. Arlington Public School Superintendent Superintendent Francisco Durán made a strong, clear statement fully rejecting the “Don’t Be Trans” policies:
“I reaffirm our unwavering support for our LGBTQIA+ students, staff, and community. I want our transgender, non-binary, and gender fluid students to hear loud and clear that you belong here, you are valued, and we stand with and support you. We have reviewed the model policies and determined that our current policies and policy implementation procedures that protect the rights of our transgender students will stay as is.” -- Superintendent Francisco Durán
Schools that reject Yougkins “Don’t Be Trans” policies choose to continue implementing the 2021 Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students (2021 Transgender Model Policies) enacted under Governor Northam which are considered consistent with federal and state anti-discrimination laws and protective and supportive of transgender students.
The 2021 Transgender Model Policies were created by a diverse advisory committee from across the Commonwealth which conducted a comprehensive analysis before providing clear accessible guidance to address questions about pronouns, names, bathrooms, and team sports. Unlike the “Don’t Be Trans” policies, they ensured dignity, privacy, and respect for transgender and cisgender students. Not only that, but the 2021 Transgender Model policies involved:
Widespread community involvement from parents, students, organizations, and medical experts.
A thorough analysis of all applicable laws, regulations, and policies.
Use of evidence-based best practices in response to 2020 bills that amended the Code of Virginia regarding treatment of transgender students.
Accurate definitions and the use of medically accurate terminology.
Clear intent to alleviate bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
Straightforward, easily implementable policies for school districts.
Whereas Northam’s 2021 Transgender Model Policies used evidence-based best practices to enable students to use the facilities and participate in activities based on their gender identity, Youngkin’s “Don’t Be Trans” policies remove those rights, replacing them with a hodge-podge of rules and restrictions that place undue burdens on students, parents, teachers, and school administration while opening up transgender students to bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
In brief, Youngkin’s “Don’t Be Trans” policies endanger the mental and physical health of students, place an unfair (and unfunded) burden on schools and parents, limit or prevent participation in sports, and violate students’ rights to access public education free of harassment. Likely, they would also open up school districts across the Commonwealth of Virginia to legal action from parents.
Whether these deleterious outcomes are purposeful or are a product of poor policy-making is yet to be known. Nevertheless, in an effort to impose ideological beliefs on the Commonwealth of Virginia, Governor Youngkin has eliminated transgender students from the title of the policies that govern their inclusion and access to public education. When you care for transgender students so little that you remove them from the title of the policy that governs their access to public education, then you have a discrimination problem. Excluding them from the title is merely an example of how transgender and gender expansive students will be excluded from public education, if these policies are adopted.
4publiceducation.org applauds school districts that reject Youngkin’s 2023 so-called “model policies.” We stand by transgender and gender expansive students who deserve a safe, inclusive, secure, and respectful public school environment. We stand by the families of those students whose parental rights are being ignored.
Since the rights and voices of transgender and gender-expansive students have been excluded from Younkin's policies, 4publiceducation.org commits to amplifying their voices this fall with a regular feature that highlights their voices and experiences, because there is no room for debate about human rights and the right to exist.