Gender policies take center stage as the 2023 school year begins

"We know that students can only learn effectively when they feel supported, wrote Michelle Reid, superintendent of Fairfax Schools in opposition to the state's newly enacted transgender policies.

This summer, several school districts took time to reflect on their schools’ policies that specifically target LGBTQ+ students. During Pride Month, especially, K12 leaders expressed their support for their students, no matter their background or identity to remind them that every student is welcome in their schools. Others refined their policies, which would restrict certain opportunities for LGBTQ+ students. And some communities are fighting back.

Last month, the Virginia Department of Education made its final revisions to its new policies, which require students to use school facilities that align with their biological sex, thus making it much more difficult for them to change their name or pronouns at school. As such, Virginia districts are required to implement their own policies that align with the state’s standards. But Fairfax Schools Superintendent Michelle Reid has a different idea.

In a letter to families on Tuesday morning, Reid wrote that upon legal review, the district determined that their current policies “are consistent with federal and state anti-discrimination laws as required by the new model policies.”

She expressed that they have no plans to alter the current rules that allow transgender and nonbinary students to be called their chosen names and pronouns, use facilities that are consistent with their gender identity, and have their privacy respected.

“We believe that supporting our students and working with parents and caregivers are not mutually exclusive; we already do both and will continue to do so,” she wrote. “We know that students can only learn effectively when they feel safe and supported.”

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In Maryland, a federal appeals court on Monday ruled against a group of parents that were pleading for changes to Montgomery County Public Schools’ gender identity policy. According to the rules, school personnel are required to help transgender and nonconforming students create a plan that addresses their preferred pronouns and provide them with the opportunity to use facilities according to their preference. It also restricts staff from informing parents of those plans without the student’s consent.

The parents, who were backed by the National Legal Foundation, a Christian conservative group, argued that the policy “infringed their due process rights under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment to direct the care of their children,” NBC News reports. But U.S. Circuit Judge A. Marvin Quattlebaum ruled that the parents’ arguments lacked standing because neither of them alleged their children had gender support plans. Rather, their concerns were merely a “policy disagreement.”

Oppositely, school officials at the Orange Unified School District in California may soon be required to notify parents if their child is “requesting to be identified or treated” as a different sex or gender, The Orange County Register reports.

According to the proposed policy, it would be up to a principal or designee, certified staff or counselor to inform the parents or guardians within three school days of that school official becoming aware of the change.

“The proposed Board Policy is recommended in order to support the fundamental rights of parents/guardians to be informed of and involved in important aspects of their student’s education during the school year,” reads the agenda description.

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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