OPINION — Let’s talk about the policy regarding transgender students

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, September 22, 2022

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In 2021, the General Assembly passed legislation requiring school systems to have a policy regarding the treatment of transgender students. The law required the state Board of Education to set a model policy, which systems could follow or enhance.

Under Governor Northam, the policy went far to the left and excluded parents from critical decision making about their children.

Last week, Governor Youngkin had announced a new model policy that corrects the many flaws in the Northam policy.

The 2022 Draft Transgender Model Policy, posted last week for comment, ensures that all students are treated with dignity and respect, honors parental involvement and the role of parents in being primarily responsible for their children’s education, care, and upbringing, and completely complies with all federal law.

Parents have a right to be informed. The 2021 policy denied this.

Transgender students policy puts parents in charge

The new policy will ensure that parents are in charge. Under the new model policy, students will be referred to by their name and by pronouns associated with their sex unless his or her parents say otherwise in writing.

It does not require teachers to address students by alternative pronouns or require teachers, students, or school personnel to address or refer to students in any particular manner that would violate someone’s constitutionally protected rights and reaffirms that all material pertaining to a student’s gender should be shared with a parent.

Parents have the right to instill in and nurture values and beliefs for their own children and make decisions concerning their children’s education and upbringing in accordance with their customs, faith, and family culture.

Highlights from the new policy include parents have a right to make decisions with respect to their children. Schools shall respect parents’ values and beliefs. Schools shall defer to parents to make the best decisions with respect to their children. Schools shall keep parents informed about their children’s well-being. Schools shall serve the needs of all students.

Schools shall partner with parents. Schools shall respect all students.

Additionally, the policy requires parental notification and an opportunity to object for any counseling program before counseling services pertaining to gender are given.

It also requires the school division to maintain an official record for each student that contains his or her legal name and biological sex.

That record can only be changed if a parent or eligible student submits a legal document, such as a birth certificate, state- or federal-issued identification, passport, or court order substantiating the student or former student’s change of legal name or sex.

This section states that school personnel shall address students by his or her name and sex as shown on the students’; official record. There are exceptions for commonly associated names (such as William being called Will or Bill).

Schools should only disclose sensitive information to the student, the student’s parents, and school personnel with a legitimate educational interest, or when required by law.

It affirms that students may dress in any manner consistent with maintaining a respectful, distraction-free environment regardless of gender.

It states that for any sex specific activities that the determination for participation should be biological sex for overnight travel accommodations, locker rooms, bathrooms, and extracurricular activities, except where mandated by federal law.

It explicitly states that any athletic programs separated by sex, that the appropriate participation for students is based on biological sex.

Put simply, parents are in charge of their children, and I will continue to work with our Governor to protect the rights of parents.

Del. Tommy Wright can be reached via email at DelTWright@House.Virginia.gov or (804) 698-1061.