Va. student: Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s rollback of LGBTQ+ student rights ‘makes school unsafe’

Some Virginia students say their classrooms will be less safe after Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued policies on Friday that would roll back some LGBTQ+ student rights in the state.

A Fairfax County Public School student, who is being kept anonymous to protect their safety, told WTOP that the new policies revoke previously established procedures that protected LGBTQ students in school.

“As a queer student, it just generally makes school unsafe. It’s stuff like being a little more uncomfortable to use — to like share my pronouns with other people. It’s just like, not wanting to be as out and proud as (I) have always been,” the student said.

The “2022 Model Policies,” which Gov. Youngkin’s Department of Education released, will require that students use facilities such as locker rooms and programs that “match the sex they were assigned at birth” and require parental permission to change their names and genders at school.

The Virginia Department of Education characterized the previous 2021 “model policies,” which were adopted during former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration, as promoting a “specific viewpoint aimed at achieving cultural and social transformation in schools” and disregarding parents’ rights as well as “legal and constitutional principles.”

The withdrawn policies allowed transgender students to use facilities that match their gender identity. Now, under the new “2022 Model Policies” transgender students will have to use facilities that they might not identify with.

The previous policies’ protections also included requirements that school districts and teachers accept and use students’ gender pronouns and identities.

“A lot of students and a lot of districts have had rules established protecting queer students from malicious dead naming from different — just different forms of discrimination,” the student told WTOP. “So what Gov. Youngkin has done and this decision that’s been made has effectively removed or stripped these rights from students.”

In the 2022 Model Policies, the word “sex” is defined as biological sex, and the phrase “transgender students” means “a public school student whose parent has requested in writing, due to their child’s persistent and sincere belief that his or her gender differs with his or her sex, that their child be so identified while at school.”

That means that schools are supposed to defer to parents on what names, nicknames and pronouns teachers and staff should use when referring to the student; whether the student can get counseling; or whether the student expresses a different gender at school.

The student interviewed by WTOP said Gov. Glenn Youngkin should weigh students’ rights just as much as parents’ rights.

“For politicians to kind of just consider parents views as opposed to students, ever, harms the students in the long run.”

The Pride Liberation Project, a Virginia student organization advocating for LGBTQIA+ students across the commonwealth, has called for the state department of education to “revoke its draft revisions and for the school boards to affirm their commitment to protect all students by rejecting these bigoted proposed guidelines.”

WTOP’s Abigail Constantino and Ivy Lyons contributed to this story.

Hugh Garbrick

Hugh graduated from the University of Maryland’s journalism college in 2020. While studying, he interned at the Queen Anne & Magnolia News, a local paper in Seattle, and reported for the school’s Capital News Service. Hugh is a lifelong MoCo resident, and has listened to the local radio quite a bit.

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