Background – On July 18, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) released “Model Policies on Ensuring Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools” — an 18-page document outlining guidance on how transgender and nonbinary students should be treated in Virginia schools.
“The Virginia Department of Education…recognizes that each child is a unique individual with distinctive abilities and characteristics that should be valued and respected,” VDOE writes at the beginning of the Model Policies document. “All students have the right to attend school in an environment free from discrimination, harassment, or bullying. The Department supports efforts to protect and encourage respect for all students. Thus, we have a collective responsibility to address topics such as the treatment of transgender students with necessary compassion and respect for all students.”
Throughout the policies, the VDOE formally defines “transgender student” as “a public school student whose parent has stated in writing that the student’s gender differs from the student’s sex, or an eligible student who states in writing that his or her gender differs from
his or her sex.”
The policies also address how to handle bathroom policies, student identification and athletic policies in Virginia schools.
Under the new guidelines, school extracurriculars and athletics that are separated by sex will be determined by a student’s sex, not their gender identity.
Parents can also opt their child out of using sex-segregated facilities at school, such as bathrooms or locker rooms, if they feel their child’s safety is at risk. If a student’s parent opts them out of using these facilities, they should be given alternative options.
While the policies state that “every effort should be made to ensure that a transgender student wishing to change his or her means of address is treated with respect, compassion, and dignity in the classroom and school environment,” the guidelines also dictate that school staff can only use the name on a student’s official records to refer to them. Likewise, school staff can also only use pronouns “appropriate to the sex appearing in the student’s official record.” While a student can request to be called a nickname, this name should be “commonly associated with the name that appears in the student’s official record.”
A student’s name and sex can be changed on their official records if a parent submits official documentation showing a student’s change of legal name or sex.
From Shore Daily News – The Accomack County School Board amended their anti discrimination policies in order to comply with the Virginia Board of Education guidelines at their September 5 work session.
The Board adopted the amended policy by a 7 to 2 vote, with Board members Ed Taylor and Janet Turner casting opposing votes.
The revised policy contains provisions that prevent schools from counseling students pertaining to gender without written permission from the parents. Parents or legal guardians must be given the opportunity to object before counseling services pertaining to gender are given.
Schools are also required to maintain an official record for each student that includes the student’s legal name and sex.
Schools can only change the legal name or sex in a student’s or former student’s official record only if a parent or eligible student, defined as being over the age of 18, submits a legal document such as a birth certificate, state or federal id, passport or court order substantiating the student or former student’s change of legal name or sex.
School officials will refer to each student using only the pronouns appropriate to the sex appearing on the student’s official record. Only if an eligible student or student’s parent has instructed the school in writing that such other pronouns can be used.
For any school program, event, or activity including extracurricular activities that are separated by sex, the appropriate participation of students shall be determined by sex rather than gender or gender identity.
Overnight travel accommodations, locker rooms or other intimate spaces used for school-related activities and events shall be based on sex. Reasonable modifications to this policy will be made only to the extent required by law.
Students shall use bathrooms that correspond to his or her sex except to the extent that federal law otherwise requires. Single use bathrooms should be available with appropriate signage.
Students diagnosed with gender dysphoria by a licensed health care provider should consult with the school’s ADA coordinator regarding any requested services.
For any athletic program or activity that is separated by sex, appropriate participation of students shall be determined by sex rather than gender or gender identity. The school shall provide reasonable modifications to this policy only to the extent required by law.
The policy also includes language pertaining to training staff annually on health and mental wellness support for all students. The schools will provide bullying prevention education and will require schools to inform parents of bullying incidents within 24 hours of being informed of the allegation of bullying.