During a visit to Leesburg on Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin defended his administration’s new guidelines on transgender students, stating that the state’s new education model policies respect all students while also involving parents.
“Parents must have a role in their children’s lives and, as these important decisions are made, parents must be informed and included,” said Youngkin, who was in Leesburg to inspect the ballot counting process at the Loudoun County Office of Elections.
In his administration’s 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 previous 2021 model policies had required school districts and teachers accept and use the students’ preferred gender pronouns and identities, without seeking parental input.
The Youngkin administration’s 2022 policy also requires students to use bathrooms that correspond to their biological sex, “except to the extent that federal law otherwise requires.”
When asked about fears expressed by some transgender students and their families that the new guidelines would lead to bullying, the governor said the fear is unfounded.
“I would find it very hard to argue that a parent being engaged with a child’s life is inconsistent with that child’s safety…the word bullying shows up in the draft guidelines 36 times,” Youngkin said. “This is about keeping people safe, but also fully, fully involving parents in these most important decisions.”
Local school boards are required to adopt policies consistent with the Department of Education’s 2022 guidelines. The governor made clear that he expects all Virginia school boards to comply.
“It’s the law,” said Youngkin. “I don’t really have a lot of patience for folks who see a law and don’t comply with it.”
WTOP’s Abigail Constantino contributed to this story.