The two bishops of Virginia have praised the new transgender and parental rights school policies recently implemented by Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, calling them a “considerable improvement” and a “much needed” change to earlier state education guidelines.
The new policies, released last month, affirmed that parents will maintain the right to considerable oversight of their children while they are enrolled in public schools. The state also addressed several key questions related to school policies regarding transgender-identifying students.
The model policies stipulate that school rules “shall be drafted to safeguard parents’ rights with respect to their child and to facilitate the exercise of those rights.” Schools are ordered to keep parents closely abreast of their children’s well-being while in school.
The rules further affirm that parents, not schools, will decide if their child is permitted to indulge in a “transgender” identity, including dressing and identifying as the opposite sex.
Students will also be broadly expected to “use bathrooms that correspond to [their] sex,” settling another contentious dispute surrounding children who claim to be the opposite sex.
In their joint statement, Richmond Bishop Barry Knestout and Arlington Bishop Michael Burbidge called the rules “a considerable improvement and much-needed remediation of the policies put in place by the prior administration” of Democrat Ralph Northam.
“The new policies enhance transparency for parents and restore their primary role in the education, care, and health of their children,” the prelates wrote.
“They affirm and protect the dignity and safety of every student. They also respect the religious liberty and conscience rights of all members of Virginia’s public school community.”
“We urge parents whose children attend Virginia public schools to become familiar with the updated policies, to engage in discussion about them at the local level, and — most importantly — to embrace their critical role in the lives of their children at home and at school,” the bishops added.
The rules generated blowback last month from left-wing and LGBT advocates. Many activists have called for schools to be permitted to hide a child’s “transgender identity” status from his or her parents; advocates have also called for students to be permitted to use the bathrooms of the opposite sex if they identify as a member of that sex.
Narissa Rahaman, the executive director of the pro-LGBT group Equality Virginia, said in a statement to school officials last month that the group would do “everything in our power to make sure your school district rejects [the new rules].”
Youngkin in an interview with the Associated Press last month stressed that schools can still play a supplementary role in the well-being of young students behind that of parents.
“What we’re not saying is that trusted counselors and other trusted adults in a child’s life should be excluded,” he told the news wire. “What we are ... saying is that parents just need to be involved and are the first stop.”