Candidates in Va.’s 10th Congressional District race weigh in on transgender student policies

The recent controversy related to transgender policies in Virginia schools made its way into a congressional race in Northern Virginia as the two candidates weighed in with their thoughts on the issue Sunday night.

“That right belongs to the parents,” said Republican Hung Cao.

Cao is challenging Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton in next month’s election in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, which includes Loudoun County and parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties.

Cao said he agreed with Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposed policy changes for the treatment of transgender students, which would require parental signoff on the use of any name or pronoun other than what’s in a student’s official record.

“A school can’t even give a kid an aspirin, but you’re saying that school can decide what sex your child is?” Cao said.

During a debate Sunday, Wexton told Cao that she believed Youngkin was using transgender students as “political pawns.”

“This is an extremely vulnerable population,” Wexton said. “Those kids could be vilified even further.”

Youngkin’s proposed changes say that student participation in certain school programming and use of school facilities, such as bathrooms or locker rooms, should be based on their biological sex, with modifications offered only to the extent required under federal law.

The proposal, which is currently open for public comment, marks a sharp departure to guidance that was first issued in 2021 during Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration.

Those guidelines said that schools should let students use names and gender pronouns that reflect their gender identity without “any substantiating evidence.”

Youngkin’s proposal led to protests last week, with student activists holding a number of school walkouts.

Aerial footage from a news helicopter showed hundreds of students protesting outside two Prince William County high schools.

Protests involving hundreds of students took place elsewhere across Northern Virginia and in the Richmond and Hampton Roads regions.

At McLean High School, more than 300 students walked out of classes, chanting, “Trans rights are human rights,” and, “D-O-E (Department of Education), leave us be!”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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