Virginia’s new transgender student policies draw criticism, support

Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s latest rollback of some policies regarding transgender students has led Virginians on both sides of the issue to speak out.

Casey Calabia, a recent Fairfax County graduate, who also identifies as transgender, said she was angry about the changes.

“It makes being a trans student really, really complicated,” Calabia said.

Other students told WTOP that they share similar concerns, including Icarus Landaker who identifies as nonbinary.

“These policies, they’re dangerous to the well-being of students,” said Landaker, a recent graduate from Virginia Beach. “It forces outings, censors identities and puts students’ mental health at risk.”

The new guidance says students’ participation in certain school programming and use of school facilities like bathrooms or locker rooms should be based on the sex assigned at birth. However, it also includes an “opt out” option for parents to request that their children be given access to a sex-separated facility in cases where “state or federal law requires schools to permit transgender students to share otherwise sex-segregated facilities (such as bathrooms or locker rooms) with students of the opposite sex.”

The policies also say that students who are minors must be referred to by the names and pronouns in their official records unless a parent approves the use of something else and that school systems may not encourage teachers to conceal information about students’ gender from their parents.

Supporter: ‘Bring parents back into the fold’

Ian Prior, a Loudoun County parent who’s been critical of the school system, is with the nonprofit Fight For Schools.

The new model policies, according to Prior, will help give parents a voice in schools.

“Parents have been clamoring for model policies that bring parents back into the fold,” he said.

The new rules revise a 2021 policy that said schools should allow students to use preferred names and gender pronouns.

“We’ll see if they’re willing to stand by what they said in 2021, which was we have to follow the model policies,” Prior said. “If they don’t, their words are going to get thrown back at them in the media, in the boardroom and probably in the courtroom.”

Calabia stressed the impact on students across Virginia school systems.

“There’s a big element of unknowingness whether their school board will adopt these policies or not,” Calabia said.

What school systems have said about the changes

Fairfax County Schools Superintendent Michelle Reid told families that she understands concerns over what the changed policies will mean for the school system, “particularly for our LGBTQIA+ community.”

“I want to be clear that FCPS remains committed to an inclusive and affirming learning environment for each and every student and staff member including those who are transgender or gender expansive,” said Reid in a letter. “Our schools will continue to be safe, welcoming, and respectful learning spaces.”

The superintendent of public schools in Arlington, Francisco Duran, spoke out about protecting the
“safety and well-being,” of LGBT students.

“We fully support our transgender and LGBTQIA+ students and value the many diverse identities within our schools, where every student can authentically express themselves,” Duran said. “As it stands now, our current PIPs (policies) in support of transgender and gender fluid students and staff remain fully in effect.”

Representatives for public school systems in Loudoun and Prince William counties said they’re reviewing the policies.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Jessica Kronzer

Jessica Kronzer graduated from James Madison University in May 2021 after studying media and politics. She enjoys covering politics, advocacy and compelling human-interest stories.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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