How you can weigh in on Virginia's new transgender student policies

Public comment will begin Monday, Sept. 26 and continue for 30 days
Posted at 7:13 PM, Sep 24, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. — Beginning Monday, Sept. 26, Virginians will be able to weigh in on the Virginia Department of Education's (VDOE) new 2022 model policies regarding the treatment of transgender students in the state's public schools. 

The new policies would require parents of transgender students to request their child's school address them as such. Name and pronoun changes would also require a request from parents, as well as official legal documents or court orders noting the change.

Students would be required to use the bathroom that aligns with their sex, except to the extent that the federal law requires otherwise. 

RELATED: Virginia schools could soon change the way they treat transgender students

Virginia Transgender Model Policies

IN-DEPTH:Click here to read the complete draft policies | Click here to read the previous policies

Governor Glenn Youngkin says this will give parents more power to parents, calling the prior policies unconstitutional for limiting parents' rights. 

“It’s clear that children don’t belong to the state," Youngkin told WUSA.

Chris Berg, a parent in Hanover County who has a child who identifies as nonbinary, disagrees.

“If this policy was really about parental rights, I would be able to request that the school address my child as ‘they/them’ instead of just male or female. If this policy was really about parental rights, we wouldn’t be required to provide legal documents just to have our children addressed by their chosen name at school," Burg said.

Transgender Student Policies Virginia

RELATED: Why these Virginia students are rallying for transgender rights

Berg was one of several dozen people who met at the Capitol Bell Tower Saturday afternoon to voice their concerns over the new policy and march from Capitol Square to Brown's Island.

State Sen. Jennifery Boysko, D-Fairfax, who helped draft the 2021 model policies, said parents played a role in pushing for more protections for transgender students.

“Parents were involved in this, students were involved in this, teachers were involved in this, as well as 9,000 comments from the public, who helped us craft this model policy that now Governor Youngkin is trying to repeal and change," Boysko said.

Transgender Student Policies Virginia

RELATED: Richmond school leaders on new transgender polices: 'This is unacceptable'

On Sept. 19, the Richmond School Board announced its rejection of the draft policies, saying it "affirms the commitment to providing protections for all students regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression."

“Research shows us that transgender and nonbinary students feel more comfortable in their schools when they can use the names that they prefer to be called by," said Katina Harris, a teacher with RPS. "A welcoming classroom is a loving classroom and that’s what our educators provide for our students. When we don’t provide these things, we see more anxiety, depression and suicide in our students."

Kayden Peddicord, a nonbinary student who spoke during Saturday's rally, said the potential policies will silence transgender students who may have to come out to their parents, in order to be identified the way they wish to be in school.

State Sen. Jennifer Boysko
State Sen. Jennifer Boysko

“Governor Youngkin says he wants to support all students, make them feel safe, while including parents in this discussion of how we should be treated in a school environment," Caden said. "He wants everyone heard. Instead, I am silenced.”

Youngkin told WUSA that if a child had a parent who was not understanding of their gender identity:

“I would say, trust your parents," Youngkin said. "At the moment where there are very difficult issues in families and challenging issues in families, families come together. And this is why parents in fact have a role in their children’s lives."

Transgender Student Policies Virginia

IN-DEPTH: How Central Virginia school districts are responding to new transgender student policies

Public comment will openMonday, Sept. 26 and will remain open for 30 days. The VDOE will then review comments and the model policies will await final approval from the state superintendent. If the model policies are approved, the policies would go into effect for school boards to implement.

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