VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia (LifeSiteNews) — A Virginia school board has been hit with a lawsuit from parents for refusing to cooperate with statewide policies requiring schools to respect students’ biological sex and parental rights.
On Thursday, two local mothers – Sarah Winesett and Vanessa Beasley – filed a lawsuit against the Virginia Beach School Board, arguing that the board “refused to fully adopt model policies issued by the Virginia Department of Education pursuant to the Department’s authority under Virginia law.”
“By allowing inconsistent rules to remain in effect, the Board has ignored the rights of Virginia parents to make basic decisions about the education and well-being of their children,” the complaint states.
Court documents argue that the board has “refused to adopt the 2023 Model Policies,” which emphasize adherence to biological sex and the need to inform parents of any gender confusion experienced by their children. The guidelines from Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration are a stark contrast to the pro-LGBT guidelines that were in place under former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.
A board member “proposed a resolution that would have directed the Superintendent to replace current Virginia Beach regulations with the 2023 Model Policies” last month. However, “the motion to adopt the resolution failed with five School Board members supporting it, five opposing, and one abstaining.” Members on both sides reportedly “acknowledged that Virginia law requires school boards to adopt policies consistent with the Model Policies.”
“As a result of the Virginia Beach School Board’s defiance of Virginia law, numerous regulations inconsistent with the 2023 Model Policies remain in effect, interfering with parents’ authority to control their children’s education and protect them in Virginia Beach public schools.”
The complaint further states that, rather than determine what would be the best policy for schools, the case is focused on the fact “that regulations the School Board allowed to remain in place are inconsistent with the Department of Education’s Model Policies; that the Board’s refusal to adopt regulations consistent with the Model Policies violates Virginia law; that the current regulations exceed the School Board’s legal authority; and that the Board acted arbitrarily and capriciously and abused its discretion in refusing to give Virginia Beach parents the protections required by the Model Policies.”
Noting that “local school boards have authority over the ‘supervision of schools in each school division,’” the plaintiffs pointed out that “their authority is not absolute,” as it falls under the Virginia Constitution. According to the Virginia Code, school districts are permitted to institute their own policies if they are “not inconsistent with state statutes and regulations of the Board of Education.”
The complaint also specifies that “no law or court order requires Virginia Beach Schools to use gender identity [sic] to determine participation in athletic programs or other activities. If anything, allowing a biologically male athlete to compete as a putative female in female sports could constitute a violation of Title IX’s mandate to ‘provide equal athletic opportunity for members of both sexes.’”
Undermining parental rights and student safety
“Current Virginia Beach regulations state that ‘students will be allowed to use a name and gender pronoun that reflects their gender identity [sic] without substantiating evidence,’” the complaint reads. This rule allows for the “amendment of records” as well.
“In contrast, the Model Policies require the use of only ‘he’ or ‘she’ pronouns for singular students by mandating that ‘personnel shall refer to each student using only the pronouns appropriate to the sex appearing in the student’s official record,” which are only male and female.
Only a request from parents and legal documents to change a child’s name and pronouns may lead to permission for the use of alternate names and pronouns. The 2023 policies also prohibit “compelling” other students or staff to use names and pronouns which “would violate their constitutionally protected rights.” Plaintiffs argue that the current policies “lack express protections for students and teachers who disagree with transgender [sic] ideology.”
“Instead, Virginia Beach threatens to punish anyone who intentionally uses a student’s birth name or biologically accurate pronouns” when talking to or about a gender-confused student. Current policy also allows students to use bathrooms and locker rooms and to sleep in the same quarters for overnight trips in accordance with their perceived “gender identity.” State policies require adherence to biological sex in all these cases.
Plaintiffs’ requests include that the court declares the board’s violations, requires its lawful adoption of new policies in line with state guidance, and that unlawful regulations – including those which seek to punish those who don’t embrace gender ideology – are prohibited.
Last month, Roanoke County Public Schools also rejected the implementation of the 2023 Model Policies, causing Gov. Youngkin to respond and defend his “common sense” regulations. Prince William County Public Schools also indicated its plans to defy Youngkin’s anti-woke guidelines. Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares has backed the policies, reminding school districts that they are legally bound to obey them.
Similarly, the Amherst County School Board voted last week to keep its current policy in violation of state regulations.
The original version of the policies was released by the Virginia Department of Education in September 2022 and received both backlash and support from parents and students across the state. Similar guidelines were issued for the 2023-2024 school year, which were finalized and effective in July.