State says Virginia transgender policy fight falls to local schools

The Virginia Department of Education said Friday that local school systems must comply with state law by adopting a transgender equity policy model, approved in April, by the 2021-2022 school year.

The legal guidance follows several inquires from “school divisions” in the commonwealth seeking advice on their obligation to comply with a policy mandate put in place during the 2020 legislative session.

“The law requires local school boards to adopt policies on the treatment of transgender students that are consistent with, but may be more comprehensive, than the model policies developed by VDOE. These policies must also be adopted no later than the 2021-2022 school year,” Virginia education officials stated in a July 30 letter.

“Like all other mandates on local school boards resulting from General Assembly action, local school boards must fulfill this directive in order to be in compliance with state law. Local school boards that elect not to adopt policies assume all legal responsibility for noncompliance,” according to the letter.

Part of the approved gender diversity model states: “School divisions should accept a student’s assertion of their gender identity without requiring any particular substantiating evidence, including diagnosis, treatment, or legal documents.”

The guidance follows a controversy taking place in Loudoun County, where Byron Tanner Cross, a Leesburg Elementary physical education teacher, was placed on suspension after stating publicly he would not address transgender students by their preferred pronouns.

Glynis Kazanjian

Glynis Kazanjian has been a freelance writer covering Maryland politics and government on the local, state and federal levels for the last 11 years. Her work is published in Maryland Matters, the Baltimore Post Examiner, Bethesda Beat and Md. Reporter. She has also worked as a true crime researcher.

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