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How Central Virginia school districts are responding to proposed transgender policy for students

Posted at 11:27 PM, Sep 20, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. -- The rights of transgender students in Virginia schools are now in question following a new draft policy released by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) last week.

The policy drafted by the VDOE puts a heavy emphasis on parental rights with how school districts should handle students who identify as transgender.

The new policies direct schools to only recognize transgender students if the child's parent has requested in writing that the school address their child by a different gender identity. For student pronouns, it said that "personnel shall refer to each student only using the pronouns appropriate to the sex appearing in the student's official record".

CBS 6 reached out to several Central Virginia school boards to learn how they are responding to the drafted policy.

If it is passed, all Virginia school boards would be required by law to adopt it.

Richmond Public School Board member Liz Doerr is proposing that their school board reject Governor Glenn Youngkin's model policies. Instead, she said they should affirm their commitment to providing protections for all students, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

The Richmond School Board added this topic to their October agenda.

Chesterfield's school board said they are currently reviewing the guidelines and they are eagerly awaiting the public feedback that the state receives. They said this feedback will help them determine any modifications they will make.

Henrico's board said they are reviewing the policies and comparing them to the existing policies. They added that they are doing this to find the best way to balance the parameters of state and federal laws and regulations and the division's strategic plan.

Hanover's school board said they are awaiting further guidance from the state and will evaluate with the school board attorney.

While Virginia school districts are figuring out how to respond to the drafted policy, some Central Virginia parents have expressed their concerns. Anne Zweckbronner has a student in the Hanover Public School district who identifies as transgender.

"I don't have a lot of hope if this goes into effect," Zweckbronner said.

She said that there will be major impacts on students' mental health if teachers don't call them by the correct pronouns. She said she is especially fearful of what these changes could mean for other transgender students who don't have a strong support system.

"When you know a leg of support from them, the kids hurt," Zweckbronner said.

Despite concerns voiced by the Hanover mother, others are in support of the drafted policy.

The Family Foundation said they have been advocating for this to happen on behalf of many parents for some time.

"The policies that were drafted in 2021 grossly undermined parental rights, almost to the point of deceiving parents," Todd Gathje, the Family Foundation's director of government relations, said.

The group wants the VDOE to move forward with the draft policies and feels that Youngkin has stressed the value of parents being involved.

The VDOE will open public comment on the draft policy for 30 days starting Monday. From there, they will review comments and then the state superintendent will have the final approval. If approved, the guidance will go into effect for school boards to implement.

You can read more about the drafted policy here.

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