Youngkin administration seeks to revoke transgender policy for Virginia public schools

On Friday afternoon, the administration of Governor Glenn Youngkin announced it would seek to overturn a Virginia Department of Education policy put in place last year to protect the rights of transgendered students. Bills passed the 2020 General Assembly directing the department to create such model policies for all localities to follow. 

“The key guiding principle of the model policies is that all children have a right to learn, free from discrimination and harassment,” reads page eight of the 2021 policy that resulted. (download the 2021 policy

Now, Youngkin is proposed replacing that document with one called “Model Policies for Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools” 

“The 2021 Model Policies promoted a specific viewpoint aimed at achieving cultural and social transformation in schools,” reads the purpose section of the new policy .”The 2021 Model Policies also disregarded the rights of parents and ignored other legal and constitutional principles that significantly impact how schools educate students, including transgender students.”

The 2021 document has a long list of terminology with eleven definitions ranging from “cisgender” to “transgender”, but the 2022 policy reduces that to one definition for “transgender” student that requires the parent to request that identification rather than the student. 

Some of the definitions in the 2021 policy (review)
Definitions in the 2022 policy (review)

The new policy also states the First Amendment prevents “government actors” from making others do anything against their religious beliefs.

“Practices such as compelling others to use preferred pronouns is premised on the ideological belief that gender is a matter of personal choice or subjective experience, not sex,” reads section V paragraph C. “Many Virginians reject this belief.”

Advocates for transgendered students say the new policy will cause harm to individuals in families where they are forced to hide their identity.

For more on the response to the proposed new policy, check out the Richmond Times-Dispatch interview with two law professors who argue Youngkin’s approach may be on shaky legal ground. (Two professors question legality of Youngkin’s transgender policies, September 20, 2022)

While the new document states the new policy goes into effect immediately, there is a 30-day public comment period that will open on September 26 on Virginia Regulatory Town Hall. Then the Board of Education will take up the policy in a vote.

Youngkin has claimed a mandate to change several policies, including withdrawing from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. He has been traveling to other states across the United States to support Republican candidates, and is widely believed to be a candidate in the 2024 presidential race. (See alsoYoungkin administration outlines plan to leave cap-and-trade system, September 1, 2022)

Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe with 50.58 percent of the vote to McAuliffe’s 48.64 percent. Democrats retain a 21 to 19 advantage in the Virginia Senate and the Republicans have 52 seats to the Democrats’ 47 seats in the House of Delegates. There is one vacancy pending a special election for the 35th House District scheduled for January 10, one day before the General Assembly reconvenes. 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the September 20, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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