AMHERST, Virginia (LifeSiteNews) — Another school district in Virginia has voted against adopting the state’s biology-based standards for gender issues in public schools, underscoring the challenge facing the state in the absence of clear enforcement mechanisms.
Under Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has promulgated a model policy that requires students to be addressed by their legal names and actual sex, as well as to use biological sex to determine which bathrooms, lockers, or athletic teams they are allowed to access. Left-wing hostility to the policy in Roanoke County Public Schools recently caught the attention of the Biden administration Justice Department.
WSET reports that the Amherst County School Board voted 6-1 against the Youngkin policy and to instead retain its current policy, which says simply that the board is “committed to nondiscrimination with regard to membership in any category protected under federal or Virginia law. This commitment prevails in all of its policies and practices concerning staff, students, educational programs and services, and individuals and entities with whom the Board does business.”
“After speaking with our legal counsel, it is in the best interest of the county to keep the current policy our school has,” claimed Amherst County Superintendent Dr. William Wells, who previously said that he believed the current policy met the legal requirements of the law.
Amherst County follows Prince William County Public Schools, which indicated last month that it would not adopt the VDOE policy. That announcement prompted a rebuke from the governor, who said this week that the “law is very clear” on the matter and that districts have no choice but to “comply with the law and stop thinking that they know more than parents.”
On August 24, Virginia’s Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares announced an official legal opinion on the matter, which he said “simply confirms what the overwhelming number of Virginians already know; parents have a fundamental right to the care, upbringing, and education of their children […] These policies are fully compliant with the law, and school boards across the Commonwealth should support and implement them. It’s not just common sense, it’s the law.”
His office determined that the Youngkin DOE rules “comply with the Equal Protection Clause [of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution], Title IX [of the federal Education Amendments Act of 1972], and the VHRA [Virginia Human Rights Act],” and that according to state law “local school boards are required to adopt policies that are consistent with” those rules.
Complicating the situation, however, is the fact that while Virginia law requires public school districts to abide by VDOE model policies, a lack of clear enforcement mechanisms has enabled districts to get away with flouting them. The Miyares opinion did not address how to enforce compliance on districts that still continue to defy them.
Youngkin has told reporters to “stand by” when asked about enforcement, and Virginia State Superintendent Lisa Coons has warned that school boards “should consider the potential costs of civil litigation or other associated liabilities in evaluating the consequences of their actions.”
While outrage at “woke” education policies and disregard for parental rights fueled Youngkin’s victory for the governorship in 2021, the Virginia legislature is still divided between a Democrat-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House of Delegates, limiting state conservatives’ ability to enact more straightforward enforcement mechanisms.
Virginia holds state legislative elections this November, and control of both chambers is up for grabs.