HANOVER COUNTY, Va. -- A contentious issue in Hanover County Schools is back on the table for discussion by the school board.
The board is now proposing a policy for how transgender and non-binary students use bathrooms and locker rooms. The proposed policy comes in the wake of a lawsuit and a year of back and forth from community members on the issue.
As of the summer of 2022, there is no specific policy in place in Hanover schools to protect transgender or non-binary students, despite a Virginia law that went into effect last summer.
The new law required all Virginia school districts to adopt, at a minimum, the Virginia Department of Education's model policies for transgender students.
This states that schools can't question how a student chooses to identify themselves and they must avoid methods that could out students to their parents. It also said that schools will not be able to restrict students from a particular locker room or bathroom.
If the policy is not followed, it is considered discrimination.
On Tuesday, the Hanover School Board will read for the rest time a proposed policy for these students to use the bathroom and locker room.
The proposed policy would have transgender and non-binary students apply to the school board to be granted permission to use a different bathroom or locker room. For bathrooms, this application will include a handful of required documents.
The school board would require a student statement, a parent statement, a signed document from a doctor or counselor, disciplinary and criminal records and information related to the privacy of other students.
For locker rooms, school board members would need to take into consideration the physical design of the facility, whether a student would have to change, the number of single stalls available, and other factors to preserve student privacy and safety.
The ACLU, which currently has a lawsuit on this issue against the district, thinks the proposed policy is unacceptable. They feel the proposed policy makes students jump through hoops and could impact students disproportionally based on their access.
“This proposal does not alleviate them of that legal requirement. Instead, they are creating an unnecessary process they know will prevent students from accessing those facilities still,” said Breanna Diaz who is the Policy Legislative Counsel of Virginia for the ACLU.
For months, parents have spoken out at board meetings, saying they don't want policies like this implemented.
One parent shared her concern about safety at the November school meeting when the model policies were voted not to be implemented in the county.
“I’m very passionate about my daughter because I’m a victim of sexual assault in a bathroom and I’m uncomfortable with her using the bathroom with a male or a trans,” said a parent.
The Hanover Patriots, a parent group that attends and speaks out at every meeting against transgender policies, said they were supportive of the measure.
"This policy will ensure that all students have fair and safe access to bathrooms and locker rooms no matter which gender they identify," a spokesperson for the group wrote. "Keeping parents involved in their student’s gender identity is an important step to making sure all students have the proper mental and physical health care they need to thrive during their formative years."
Tuesday’s meeting is just the first read of the policy. The board won’t vote on the proposed policy until their September meeting.