RICHMOND, Va. -- In a Monday night meeting, the Richmond Public School Board rejected a proposed policy that would change the rights of transgender students in Virginia schools. So will the school district be penalized for the motion?
The school board's statement comes just one week after tens of thousands of Virginians shared their opinions on Governor Glenn Youngkin's new Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) draft policy that would impact transgender and nonbinary students.
The proposed policy puts heavy emphasis on parental rights with how school districts should handle students who are transgender.
While the policy is still in public comment for the next few weeks, it's not stopping some school districts.
Richmond Schools said the proposed policy rolls back efforts to protect transgender students, and that's why they went ahead and voted on a resolution to protect those rights.
“My concern is if we delay it may send a message to send to these young people that we don’t care about them and that is the farthest from the truth,” Shonda Harris-Muhammed, one board member, said.
Richmond's move comes before the VDOE will review the public comments — after which, they will decide to make any changes to the policy.
The move from school districts like RPS to denounce the policy has brought up the question of what will happen if districts decide not to follow the final policy handed down.
In a written statement, the VDOE said the 2020 legislation that prompted them by law to make this policy doesn't address consequences for non-compliance. However, they cited a Virginia code that says local school boards must “see that the school laws are properly explained, enforced and observed".
They said Virginia code also provides for the judicial review of local school board decisions.
Jack Preis, a professor of law at the University of Richmond, said that if a school board doesn't adopt the model policy, individual parents can sue the school board for non-compliance.
Preis referenced a memo the past Virginia State Superintendent released when the original policies were passed down for school boards to apply.
He added that he believes the success or failure of a particular lawsuit will not be because a school district does or doesn't adopt the model policy, but will be based on whether a particular action by the school district violates the rights of a student.
"The model policy does not create rights. It merely tries to guide school districts in how they respect the rights of its students," Preis said.
Parents will have until October 26 to make comments on the VDOE's website.