ROANOKE, Va. – A recent decision by Governor Youngkin concerning transgender rights in public schools is facing mixed reactions.
Some said it may cause harm and others feel it gives more rights to parents.
“The way they are actually written is going to be really damaging to transgender and non-binary students,” Doctor Samantha Rosenthal, a professor at Roanoke College, said.
Rosenthal is not pleased with the new model policy the Virginia Department of Education released aimed at transgender students.
“I think that our public schools should be safe spaces where students are growing because that’s our goal as educators,” Rosenthal said.
Organizers with Southwest Virginia Pride felt that the new model policy could cause more harm to transgender students.
“There are some places where the only safe space these kids have are in school, with respect, it was a bit hypocritical because in one breath they are saying we are not condoning bullying or harassing but in the next breath they are going to enforce sex based activities or school facilities,” Jessica Bralley said.
The model policy was recently released Friday, and mentions “schools deferring to parents to make the best decision for their children,” meaning the parents can decide what names, nicknames, and pronouns are appropriate for their child.
Subsection D refers to the identification of students, and that portion of the policy mentions school personnel shall refer to each student using the name in the student’s official record.
Also, personnel shall refer to each student using only pronouns appropriate to the sex appearing in the student’s record.
Another portion of the policy discusses a school division that shall disclose sensitive student information to students’ parents when required by law.
Governor Youngkin spoke about this topic in September, saying this is a parents’ rights issue.
“Virginia code says parents have a fundamental right to make decisions with regards to their child’s education, upbringing, and care,” Youngkin said.“What parents of students across Virginia are concerned about are things like academic rigor. They’re not worried about the policing of their students’ identity.”
Education leaders feel the new model policy is detrimental to students.
“I don’t know any of my educational professionals or any of my teachers that he has reached out to and we have republican, democratic, and independent members,” Dr. James Fedderman with the Virginia Education Association said. “When he’s talking about inclusivity he’s talking about a select minority.”
The proposed document can be viewed here.
Public comment is expected to open on Sept. 26 and will last for about 30 days. Once public comment closes, the department will review them. The guidance will become effective following approval of a final version by the state superintendent.