Virginia school board unanimously rejects extreme transgender guidelines
July 21, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – A Virginia school board rebuked the state’s radical new transgender policies in a unanimous vote last week, following complaints from outraged parents and other members of the community.
The Russell County school board voted 7-0 on Thursday to reject guidelines on gender-confused students pushed by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), the Epoch Times reported. The board also voted against incorporating critical race theory into lessons.
Earlier this year, the VDOE introduced model policies mandating that public schools “accept a student’s assertion of their gender identity without requiring any particular substantiating evidence, including diagnosis, treatment, or legal documents.”
The policies additionally allow students to use lockers rooms and bathrooms based on “gender identity” and threaten that teachers could be fired for non-compliance. According to the education department, schools must “adopt policies that are consistent with but may be more comprehensive than the model policies,” which are expected to be implemented this fall.
“I was elected by the people of this community, and I intend to stand up to protect every kid and do the will of the people of Russell County — and not that of an overreaching state government,” Russell County school board member Bob Gibson said Thursday. “The most important thing we can do is protect every kid and to provide them with a safe and secure place to learn.”
Several local parents denounced the VDOE guidelines at a livestreamed meeting ahead of the school board vote last week. “This could directly threaten our kids’ physical safety, privacy rights,” a man who identified himself as a father of a public-school student said, adding that “the policy forces the schools to allow boys identifying as girls, for instance, [to] use the girls’ restroom, female locker rooms, and this can be done without notifying the parents.”
“We need to say yes to protecting our kids, no to being forced into adopting sexualized political agendas.”
The VDOE has claimed that the Russell County school board’s rejection of the department’s extreme transgender rules violates state law.
“The 2020 legislation (House Bill 145 and Senate Bill 161) requires local school boards to ‘adopt policies that are consistent with but may be more comprehensive than the model policies developed by the Virginia Department of Education’ by the start of the 2021-2022 school year,” a VDOE spokesperson told the Washington Examiner. “It is the responsibility of the local school board to follow the law.”
However, a Virginia-based Christian legal group suing to block the VDOE policies has argued that schools “simply cannot adopt” the “legally problematic” guidance.
“[T]he policies themselves violated various state and federal laws, including infringing upon numerous fundamental rights of students, parents, and teachers,” Josh Hetzler, legal counsel with the Founding Freedoms Law Center, said in a Friday press conference in Russell County.
“Because of how legally problematic the VDOE’s model policies are, not to mention the likelihood of tangible harms they will allow to students’ bodily privacy, safety, and dignity in private spaces, and to parental rights, school boards simply cannot adopt policies consistent with the existing model policies.”
Hetzler noted that a hearing for a preliminary injunction to suspend the guidelines is scheduled for Wednesday in Lynchburg Circuit Court.
Virginia parents across the state have stepped up the fight against transgenderism in public schools this year, including in Loudoun County, where two parents were recently arrested after protesting transgender policies and critical race theory.
“We are the majority, and they are cancelling us, they are censoring us, they are moving forward with their own political agenda irrespective of the constituents they represent – and because of that, they will be recalled,” Loudoun County parent Brenda Tillett, president of Stand Up Virginia, told LifeSiteNews in June.