Virginia superintendents line up to defy new K12 transgender restrictions

"I oppose any policy that infringes upon the rights of our students and threatens the safety and well-being of our LGBTQIA+ students," Superintendent Francisco Durán says.

A number of superintendents are publicly vowing to defy Virginia transgender policies that restrict what bathrooms and pronouns transgender students can use.

Last week, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin and the Virginia Department of Education released “Model Policies to Ensure Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools.” The regulations say parents’ rights include deciding what names and pronouns their children use and if students receive any counseling on gender identity.

Leaders at Arlington Public Schools were quick to respond, saying their Washington, D.C.-area district would stick to its own policies that protect the rights of transgender students. Acknowledging that the model policies are likely distressing some of the district’s students, Arlington Public School Superintendent Francisco Durán promised to make additional resources available for transgender, non-binary and gender-fluid youth.

“I oppose any policy that infringes upon the rights of our students and threatens the safety and well-being of our LGBTQIA+ students,” Durán said on the district’s website. “As we transition into the 2023-24 school year, school counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers are available at our schools to provide a listening and reassuring space.”

The politics of Virginia transgender policies

Youngkin asserted that officials are trying to increase parent engagement in the lives of students, saying the policies reflect his administration’s commitment “to ensure that every parent is involved in conversations regarding their child’s education, upbringing, and care.” The Department of Education argues further that previous state policy on protecting transgender students disregarded the rights of parents and “promoted a specific viewpoint aimed at achieving cultural and social transformation in schools.”

“The Department of Education has delivered policies that empower parents, prohibit discrimination, create a safe and vibrant learning environment by addressing bullying incidents immediately, and protect the privacy and dignity of all students through bathroom policies, athletic procedures, and student identification measures,” Youngkin said in a statement.

Leaders in Alexandria City Public Schools joined Arlington in rejecting the governor’s restrictions. Alexandria City’s own policy protects students from discrimination due to gender expression, gender identity, sexual harassment and transgender status, Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt and school board Chair Michelle Rief said in a message to their community reported on by

“(W)e want to reaffirm our commitment to all students, staff and families, including our LGBTQIA+ community, that ACPS will continue to both implement and develop gender-affirming policies for all ACPS students,” Kay-Wyatt and Rief said.

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Leaders in Loudoun and Prince William county public schools told FOX 5 that they are reviewing the Youngkin administration’s model policies.

Virginia’s “Model Policies” also allow parents to opt their children out of using any bathrooms and locker rooms that state and federal laws allow “students of the opposite sex” to share. In a concession of sorts to transgender students, the Model Policies also encourage schools to make single-user bathrooms available. That guideline, however, appears not to have reassured the group of defiant superintendents.

“We will continue to model and live our values in support of inclusion, belonging, well-being and access to quality education,” Arlington superintendent Durán said. “Our current policies and procedures that protect, affirm, and celebrate transgender, non-binary, and gender-fluid students are of paramount importance in adhering to these ideals.”

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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