RICHMOND, Va. — The rights of transgender students in Virginia schools are now in question following a new draft policy released by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) last week.
The VDOE-drafted policy places a strong emphasis on parental rights and how school districts should deal with students who identify as transgender.
The new policies direct schools to only recognize transgender students if the child’s parent has requested in writing that the school address their child by a different gender identity. For student pronouns, he said “staff should only refer to each student using the gender-appropriate pronouns listed on the student’s official record.”
CBS 6 has contacted several Central Virginia school boards to find out how they are responding to the drafted policy.
If passed, all school boards in Virginia would be required by law to adopt it.
Liz Doerr, a member of the Richmond Public School Board, is proposing that their school board reject Governor Glenn Youngkin’s model policies. Instead, she said they should affirm their commitment to providing protections for all students, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
The Richmond School Board has added this topic to its October agenda.
The Chesterfield School Board said it is currently reviewing the guidelines and is looking forward to public feedback the state receives. They said this feedback would help them determine what changes they would make.
Henrico’s board said it was reviewing the policies and comparing them to existing policies. They added that they were doing this to find the best way to balance the parameters of state and federal laws and regulations and the division’s strategic plan.
The Hannover school board said it is awaiting further guidance from the state and will assess with the school board attorney.
As Virginia school districts consider how to respond to the drafted policy, some parents in Central Virginia have expressed concerns. Anne Zweckbronner has a student from the Hannover Public School District who identifies as transgender.
“I don’t have much hope if this goes into effect,” Zweckbronner said.
She said there will be major impacts on students’ mental health if teachers fail to call them by the correct pronouns. She said she was particularly concerned about what these changes might mean for other transgender students who don’t have a strong support system.
“When you know a supporting leg from them, kids hurt,” Zweckbronner said.
Despite concerns expressed by Hanover’s mother, others support the drafted policy.
The Family Foundation said it has been advocating for this to happen on behalf of many parents for some time.
“The policies that were written in 2021 have seriously undermined parental rights, almost to the point of misleading parents,” said Todd Gathje, director of government relations for the Family Foundation.
The group wants the VDOE to move forward with the draft policies and believes Youngkin has emphasized the value of parental involvement.
The VDOE will open public comments on the draft policy for 30 days from Monday. From there, they will review the comments and then the state superintendent will have final approval. If approved, the guidelines will come into effect for school boards to implement.
You can read more about the written policy here.