If you’ve been following the fight for trans youth to have basic rights and protections here in the United States, you likely already know Virginia has become its own battleground. This unfortunate reality is largely thanks to the influences of conservative groups like Moms for Liberty that have infiltrated school board meetings and local elections in order to spew dangerous anti-trans rhetoric.
More recently, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration has proposed terrible new policies for public schools in the state in terms of trans rights and access—including forcing students to deadname other students, use only pronouns assigned at birth, use the bathroom and lockers rooms that correlate with their sex assigned at birth, and, unsurprisingly at this point, only participate in sports teams that align with their sex assigned at birth.
It’s absolutely awful. And, per the 2022 Model Policies draft shared online on Friday, these guidelines released by the Virginia Department of Education will impact more than 1 million students in public schools in the state, as reported by The Guardian.
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If you’re thinking: Well, what about students lucky enough to have supportive families? They’re out of luck, too. This policy says students can’t go by another name on school documents even if they have written permission from a parent, unless they have a court order or comparable legal document. And even if they do have parental consent, teachers and other school staff aren’t actually obligated to use the student’s name and pronouns if they feel it’s a violation of their constitutional rights.
In a word: Wow.
Now, here’s where we need to stay engaged and not give up hope just yet. This guidance has a 30-day public comment period. This public comment period begins on Sept. 26. What does this mean in practice? Virginia residents can make public comments online (here) and the department of education will (supposedly) review them before sending a final version of the policies to the state’s superintendent.
Now, the previous year’s policies were considerably different. Per the 2021 guidelines, schools operated on a case-by-case basis when it came to whether or not to inform parents or guardians about a youth’s gender identity; this could be life-saving, for example, if a young person is “out” at school or in a club with friends but not with their families.
To state the obvious, this rollback in protections is really, really dangerous for youth of all ages. It’s basically open season for bullying, harassment, and already vulnerable youth being ostracized by their peers. It’s also worrisome for trans youth who have already transitioned while in school—someone could essentially be outed by force, for example, if they formerly played on one sports team and aren’t able to return the following year, or if they’re all of a sudden seen using a different bathroom.
And of course, being deadnamed in front of the entire class is basically giving every bully a permission slip to repeatedly deadname and misgender someone who is, again, already more likely to be bullied and harassed while at school. It’s evil.
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