HANOVER COUNTY, Va. -- The Hanover County School Board room was filled to capacity on Thursday as dozens of parents, students and residents came out for a special meeting on transgender policies.
The purpose of the meeting was to allow for public comment in Hanover School's proposed policy revisions, which would allow transgender students to use the restroom of the gender they identified among other things.
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.
But as of Thursday, Hanover Schools still had not done that.
"I had to lose people because they cannot come to terms with my existence. I've been bullied for who I am. I've been harassed for who I am, and I have been assaulted for who I am," said Jay Engel, a transgender male and senior at Atlee High School.
Engel spoke at the public meeting Tuesday and told CBS 6 in an interview that he was not allowed to use the same bathroom as everyone else.
"There's two bathrooms available to me, there’s the nurse's and office bathrooms at our school and there is the new transgender bathroom that they put into place. This has multiple stalls but only one person can go in at a time, it’s unmarked, you need a key to it,” said Engel.
“Not having that equity is really upsetting to me. Every time I have a substitute teacher I have to explain to them, ‘hey it’s going to take me 15 minutes to use the bathroom.’”
Some parents who spoke against the policy said they worried for non-transgender students’ safety.
“I just want to say that if this passes you are undermining my rights as a parent. You are violating my religious freedom,” said Lauren Mast. “I should not have to worry about my daughter being assaulted.”
Another community member who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting compared being transgender to a disease.
“It is for that reason that I object to the proposed provisions. They do nothing but encourage the spread of transgenderism among students,” said Terry Miller.
Engel believed misinformation bred hatred.
“I think that if most people had to go through what trans people go through for a single day the world would be a much better place.”
Several months ago, in Gloucester County, the school board there had to pay trans student Gavin Grimm $1.3 million after he sued the district over their transgender bathroom policy.
The policy revisions for Hanover Schools are expected to be considered by the school board Tuesday in their regular meeting.