Aug 28, 2023 - News

Virginia school districts split on Youngkin trans policy

Illustration of a worn and torn trans flag sticker on a school locker.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Local school districts have no choice but to follow Gov. Glenn Youngkin's new guidance on transgender students, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares said in an advisory legal opinion last week.

Yes, but: That's apparently not the way many local school districts see it.

Catch up fast: The Youngkin administration's new model policy, which was formally released in July, would roll back protections for transgender students, dictating which bathrooms they can use and making it more difficult to change names and pronouns.

What's happening: So far, school districts in just two localities — Spotsylvania and Roanoke counties — have adopted the policy.

  • Meanwhile, several other large Northern Virginia districts have rejected it, including Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William counties, per the Virginia Mercury.

The latest: Virginia Beach's school board members found themselves deadlocked on the issue last week, meaning, at least for now, it won't go into effect there.

Why it matters: The vote in Virginia Beach in particular shows the issue remains controversial even in some conservative districts.

What they're saying: Miyares argued in his nonbinding legal opinion that school districts don't really have a choice in the matter.

  • "These policies are fully compliant with the law, and school boards across the Commonwealth should support and implement them," he wrote. "It's not just common sense, it's the law."

The other side: School districts that have rejected the policy have said they are confident their existing stance meets the requirements of state and federal law.

Of note: When the tables were turned, many conservative school districts ignored the first model policy issued under former Gov. Ralph Northam, which aimed to expand protections for trans students in schools.

  • At the time, LGBTQ+ groups lamented there was no enforcement mechanism.

Zoom in: Locally, only Richmond Public Schools has signaled it will outright reject Youngkin's policy.

  • "The most basic dignity that we can afford our students is to call them by their chosen name," superintendent Jason Kamras told WRIC last month.

In Henrico, a spokesperson told Axios the district is still reviewing the policy. Chesterfield school officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, in Hanover County, leaders had already taken a more restrictive stance, requiring trans students to submit requests to the school board to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity.

  • A spokesperson told Axios the school board's attorney is reviewing the matter to determine whether any modifications are needed.

Go deeper: Anti-trans bills taking a toll on trans youths' mental health


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