The City of Alexandria has officially notified Virginia leaders it will not follow the proposed Model Policies that Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued earlier this month affecting transgender students’ rights.
The Youngkin administration’s proposed 2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools say that school personnel and other students can’t be compelled to address students “in a manner that would violate their constitutionally protected rights,” such as with a pronoun contrary to the person’s sex assigned at birth.
The first “guiding principle” says “parents have the right to make decisions with respect to their children,” and that “schools shall respect parent’s values and beliefs.”
A letter signed by Mayor Justin Wilson and members of the City Council addressed to Virginia’s Department of Education says the model policies remove protections for transgender and non-binary students in Virginia’s public schools, stigmatizing them and undermining their dignity and putting vulnerable students’ lives at risk.
“While the governor’s policies target, demean and diminish LGBTQ+ youth, particularly transgender and non-binary students, Alexandria City leaders and community members will support, uplift and provide a safe, nurturing environment for LGBTQ+ youth so that they can flourish,” the letter says.
“The City of Alexandria supports the Alexandria City Public Schools’ position, which is to
continue to follow ACPS policy and practice respecting individual rights and protecting students
from discrimination due to gender expression, gender identity, sexual harassment, and
City school leaders also want to assure students, staff and families that there will be no policy changes resulting from the proposed 2022 Model Policies.
A letter to the school community from Interim Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt and School Board Chair Meagan L. Alderton says in part, “The Alexandria School Board initially adopted a policy of nondiscrimination in education in December 1996. Since 2013, the nondiscrimination policy has recognized gender identity and gender expression as protected classes for equal educational opportunities. School Board Policy JB: Nondiscrimination in Education protects students from discrimination due to gender expression, gender identity, sexual harassment and transgender status.”
“We just wanted to make sure that we let our community know that we’ll continue our commitment to both implement and develop gender affirming policies for all ACPS students,” Kay-Wyatt told the council last week. “We have our priorities, we will continue to focus on making sure we do what’s best for all children.”
Youngkin’s office told WTOP in an email that, “These policies express up front that ‘all students have the right to attend school in an environment free from discrimination, harassment, or bullying.'”
The statement added: “Unfortunately, there are some voices in the commonwealth seeding disingenuous narratives that stoke fear and sow division about the policies. We encourage interested students, their parents, educators and all engaged Virginians to review the guidance itself which reinforces 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 comment period for the proposed 2022 Model Policies closes at 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 26. If enacted, they would go into effect the next day.