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Hanover School Board votes to strike down proposed transgender policy

Hanover School Board votes to strike down proposed transgender policy
Posted at 9:51 PM, Nov 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-10 00:58:23-05

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. -- The Hanover County School Board voted 4-3 at a Tuesday night meeting to strike down a proposed policy for transgender students.

This means that transgender students are not permitted to use the restroom of the gender with which they identify.

Dozens packed the Hanover School Board room and a line formed outside, Tuesday ahead of the school board's decision.

"Everyone, every child deserves basic dignity. Respect," said Sarah Bridges, who stood with a group holding signs supporting transgender rights before the meeting Tuesday.

The proposed nondiscrimination policy amendment in consideration would allow transgender students to use the bathroom of the gender in which they identified after that student contacted their school counselor and received consent from their parents.

A Hanover School Mother, Lauren Mast, urged school board members not to pass that policy.

"I am very passionate about my daughter because I'm a victim of sexual assault in a bathroom and I am uncomfortable with her having to use the bathroom with a male or a trans," said Mast.

A 2018 study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found no evidence that letting transgender people use the restroom of their identity increased safety risks.

Still, parents and even a sixth-grade student spoke against the policy at Tuesday's meeting.

"I would feel very uncomfortable if transgender people, specifically boys, were allowed in the girls' locker room or bathroom," said the sixth-grader.

In the end, school board members voted to strike down the policy — ultimately preventing transgender students from using the restroom that matches their identity.

School divisions around the Commonwealth were expected to adopt changes to their policies for transgender and non-binary students after bills passed in the 2020 General Assembly protecting those students from discrimination.

As a response to those bills, The Virginia Department of Education developed model policies concerning the treatment of transgender students and required school divisions to adopt their own policies, reflective of the VDOE's policies, by the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.

Hanover students began school in early September. Tuesday's vote by the school board came two months later.

It also came after Gloucester County transgender student, Gavin Grimm, successfully sued the district for $1.3 million over their policy prohibiting him from using the boys' bathroom. A court upheld his rights were violated.

For Hanover Schools Vice Chair, Robert Hundley, that raised questions of the legality of the board's decision Tuesday.

"Are we in effect, asking our staff to break the law on a daily basis?" Asked Hundley.

A member of Hanover School's council confirmed that the Fourth Circuit made the decision that transgender students should be allowed to use the restroom in which they identify.

"So that is the law of the Fourth Circuit," she said, adding that Hanover County is in the Fourth Circuit.

Following the vote, Hanover Schools mom, Kim Thies, fought back tears, saying she was disappointed.

Thies said her son is a transgender student in Hanover schools who was often bullied.

"Tonight the school board just made a decision that that’s okay," Thies said.

She added that at a previous school her son attended in Hanover Schools, he was made to use the nurse's restroom where other students were sick.

"He was sick so much of the year, he lost a lot of educational time as a result," said Thies. "He’d hold it in all day to try to avoid going to the bathroom. And that’s what many of the students are going through here in Hanover. And unfortunately, our board just decided that they didn't want to help these students."

While striking down the equal education proposed policy, school board members did unanimously approve other policy revisions pertaining to student records, which would require staff to use the name and gender consistent with that student's gender identity, upon request from that student and parent.

Last week, a meeting was held to allow public comment on the proposed policy revisions.