Va. school board votes against enacting trans pronoun, bathroom policy amid concerns

A sign outside a classroom taken in 2016. |

A school board in Virginia has voted to reject state regulations that would require schools to let trans-identified students choose their own names and gender pronouns and have access to the private facilities that correspond with their gender identity.  

The Newport News School Board voted 5-1 last week to reject a motion to adopt the revised state guidelines on the treatment of trans-identified students, which were created in response to legislation passed last year by the Virginia General Assembly.

U.S. Congressman Bobby Scott, a Democrat whose congressional district includes Newport News, took to his official Twitter account to denounce the school board vote.

“Disappointed by this move to discriminate against transgender students & defy state/federal law. All students deserve to feel welcome at school,” tweeted Scott last week.

“The Board should review the severe harm that not implementing these policy changes will have on student health & reverse its decision.”

According to the Code of Virginia, under § 22.1-23.3, titled “Treatment of transgender students; policies,” the state education officials provide “to each school board model policies concerning the treatment of transgender students in public elementary and secondary schools that address common issues regarding transgender students in accordance with evidence-based best practices and include information, guidance, procedures, and standards.”

These policies included, among other things, complying with “applicable nondiscrimination laws,” maintaining “a safe and supportive learning environment free from discrimination and harassment for all students” and protecting “student privacy and the confidentiality of sensitive information.”

Many attendees stepped forward during last week's school board meeting, arguing both for and against the state policies on trans-identified students.

One of the speakers, a local minister, argued that the Virginia Code section violated parental rights, stressing that “these children, and youth, they really belong to the parents. They don’t belong to the state or the federal government.”

“Parents should not be punished as abusers because they don’t identify with their child’s choice of gender identity,” Pastor Russell Evenson of the 1,200-member World Outreach Worship Center said, warning that the policy could lead to unnecessary child custody issues.

Another speaker argued that the policy is “taking rights from parents” and that children were “being indoctrinated,” his comments eliciting cheers from those in attendance.  

One supporter of the state policy, a man who had two children enrolled in the school system, claimed that supporting the preferred gender identity of students reduces their chances of committing suicide.

“I would have no problems or concerns whatsoever if there are transgender people in the bathroom with me or with my children,” said the speaker.

One woman, who called herself “a concerned citizen” and “the mother of a gay son,” spoke out against the policy, claiming that it was “discriminatory” to biological males and females by forcing them to share single-sex facilities with each other.

The Daily Press reports that board members who voted against the policy stated that they want more information about the district's planned procedures. Another meeting on the topic is scheduled for Thursday. 

Earlier this month, another Virginia school board, the Loudon County School Board, voted 7-2 to pass a policy similar to the model policies laid out by the state education department.

In response, Loudon County Public Schools teachers filed a complaint, asking a court to stop the newly passed policy from taking effect, citing constitutional objections.

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