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Tempers flare at school board meeting over protections for transgender students

A year after Fairfax County Schools voted to include “gender identity” into its anti-discrimination policy, tempers flare again – with the update of another policy. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

Falls Church, Va. — It’s been almost a year since Fairfax County Public Schools voted to include “gender identity” in a nondiscrimination policy. At a school board meeting Thursday night, the debate was reignited with a change to another school policy.

In a 9-3 vote, the school board voted to include “gender identity” to the school system’s Equal Opportunity policy. Several members of the school board said the change to the list of reasons a student cannot be excluded from school activities should have been made after last year’s vote, but it was left out by mistake.

“I think it’s important to go ahead and make what is a housekeeping change, that should have been made by staff,” said board chairman Pat Hynes.

At the auditorium of Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church, dozens of parents stood in support of the school system’s protections for transgender students.

“Now my child does not feel singled out and she feels a part of the community again,” said Davin Johnson, the mother of a transgender daughter in the school system.

The move to change the policy only appeared on the agenda this week, and that fact led to some parents accusing the school system trying to sneak the change through.

“I have a little child and she’s afraid of boys and now she has boys coming into the bathroom,” said one father, who didn’t want to be named after he left the meeting upset.

At times during the meeting there were outbursts in the audience, resulting in some parents being asked to leave.

“Let’s not do it this way, where we’ve got some members of the community feeling like they didn’t have a chance to speak at all,” said board member Thomas Wilson.

Wilson received support from other board members in his call for a delay in voting on the change, but there were not enough votes to stop the policy update.

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