Janie Doe wants to play tennis at a Hanover County middle school. The school board won’t let her.

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Posted at 6:22 PM, Jul 09, 2024

In Hanover County, Janie Doe is a teenager who tried out for and made her middle school's girls' tennis team.

However, before she could attend a practice, the Hanover County School Board voted unanimously to disallow Doe from participating on the girl’s team, on the basis of her transgender identity.

Now, Doe and her family are working with the ACLU of Virginia to fight the decision.

Wyatt Rolla, the Senior Transgender Rights Attorney with the ACLU of Virginia, is representing Doe and her family in “Doe vs. Hanover County School Board”.

“The school board bullied our client,” Rolla said. “This violates federal law.”

Wyatt Rolla

Rolla says that Doe’s participation in the team is protected under Title IX, which is a federal law that says public schools are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sex.

Rolla says that Doe’s parents provided all of the eligibility documents requested by the school board, yet the child was still prohibited from both practices and games due to her being transgender. Her identity is anonymous out of concern for her safety, according to Rolla.

When Doe found out about the school board’s decision, a decision they came to in order to “preserve fairness in sports," Rolla said Doe was “devastated” and “embarrassed."

“Janie was really excited to play on the middle school sports team with her friends,” said Rolla. “When she found out that the adults on the school board singled her out for being transgender, she was understandably very upset,” said Rolla.

In November 2023, Hanover County adopted VDOE’s 2023 Model Policies, according to the county’s BoardDocs under Section 7-4.1.

The Virginia Department of Education’s "Model Policies on Ensuring Privacy, Dignity, and Respect,” penned by Gov. Glenn Youngkin in 2023, states the following with regard to transgender athletes:

“For any athletic program or activity that is separated by sex, the appropriate
participation of students shall be determined by sex rather than gender or gender identity. [School Division] shall provide reasonable modifications to this policy only to the extent required by law.”

This can be found on Page 16 of their model policies handbook. It also contains the following:

“Each school board shall adopt policies that are consistent with but may be more comprehensive than the model policies developed by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) pursuant to subsection A."

The school board’s vote to bar Doe from the girl’s tennis team occurred before they officially adopted the policies akin to VDOE’s. Rolla calls the county’s decisions “solutions in search of a problem.”

“What’s very important for people to understand is that the policy adopted by Hanover County School Board sweepingly excludes all transgender students from participating in athletics."

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