Virginia School Board Votes to Reject State Education Department’s Transgender Policy by Landon Mion
A Virginia school board rejected a policy from the state’s Education Department that requires administrators to call students by pronouns reflecting their chosen gender identity rather than their biological pronouns.
The Russell County school board unanimously voted Thursday to reject the state’s mandatory changes to the transgender policy after residents voiced their opposition to the new guidelines for transgender students.
“We do not hate transgender people. We do not hate homosexual people. We do not judge them,” one resident said. “God will judge them. We hate the sin that they live, and that is the problem that we have in the community today, is that [it is] trying to be pushed on all of our children.”
After the state legislature approved the measure last year, the Virginia Department of Education will require schools to update educational guidelines on transgender students. The policies will take effect in the fall and will require administrators to allow students to go by the name and pronouns that align with their gender identity “without requiring any particular substantiating evidence,” according to Virginia’s model policies.
Transgender students will also be allowed under the order to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their preferred gender.
School board member Bob Gibson said he voted to reject the requirement due to an “overreaching government.”
“I was elected by the people of this community, and I intend to stand up to protect every kid and do the will of the people of Russell County — and not that of an overreaching state government,” he said in a statement. “The most important thing we can do is protect every kid and to provide them with a safe and secure place to learn.”
The Virginia Department of Education said that the school board’s decision to reject the provision violates the law, saying that it is the “responsibility of the local school board to meet the requirements” of the legislation.
“The 2020 legislation (House Bill 145 and Senate Bill 161) requires local school boards to ‘adopt policies that are consistent with but may be more comprehensive than the model policies developed by the Virginia Department of Education’ by the start of the 2021-2022 school year,” a spokesperson told the Washington Examiner. “It is the responsibility of the local school board to follow the law.”
However, Founding Freedoms Law Center attorney Josh Hetzler said at Thursday’s school board meeting that “the policies themselves violated various state and federal laws, including infringing upon numerous fundamental rights of students, parents, and teachers.”
“Because of how legally problematic these model policies are, not to mention the likelihood of tangible harms to student’s bodily, privacy, safety, and dignity in private spaces, [the] school board simply cannot adopt policies consistent with the existing model policy,” he said.
The Founding Freedoms Law Center has challenged the transgender rule changes in court, according to Hetzler.
This comes amidst a legal battle surrounding the transgender policy at another Virginia school, where Loudoun County Public Schools are challenging a judge’s order to reinstate elementary school P.E. teacher Tanner Cross, who expressed his dismay with the school’s transgender policy at a school board meeting in May.
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