New education policies issued by the administration of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin this week affirm that parents in the state will enjoy broad oversight of their children while they are enrolled in public schools, with the state settling several key questions related to school policies regarding transgender-identifying students.
The new model policies released by the government say that education rules “shall be drafted to safeguard parents’ rights with respect to their child and to facilitate the exercise of those rights.”
Schools “shall respect parents’ values and beliefs,” the policy says, with parents permitted to “make the best decisions with respect to their children,” while schools will be required to “keep parents informed about their children’s well-being.”
The guidance, which is an update from a version released in September of last year, comes after several years of contentious debate in Virginia and other states over the extent to which education officials can implement transgender ideology within schools.
Transgenderism contends that males and females, including children, should be treated as a member of the opposite sex if they declare themselves to “identify” as such. Many districts and individual schools around the country in recent years have pushed aggressively to make this ideology a normalized part of both curricula and school policies, up to and including hiding a student’s self-declared transgender identity from his or her parents.
The rules place heavy emphasis on the rights of parents concerning their children. School personnel in Virginia are now required to keep parents informed on “matters related to their child’s health, and social and psychological development,” the rules state.
Moreover, parents will be permitted to exercise broad discretion over whether or not a child is permitted to present as a member of the opposite sex, including whether or not the child adopts new pronouns at school, whether or not he or she undergoes “social transition” to a different “gender,” and whether or not the child “expresses a [different] gender” while in school.
“Parents,” the rules state, “are a child’s primary and most important educator.”
The rules further address what have been some of the most contentious topics regarding transgenderism in public education, including allowing boys to participate in girls’ sports and allowing boys and girls to use bathrooms of the opposite sex.
Provided in the documentation is a “sample policy” that schools can use as a guide for implementing the new state rules. Among them is the expectation that a student “shall use bathrooms that correspond to his or her sex, except to the extent that federal law otherwise requires.”
As well, “for any athletic program or activity that is separated by sex, the appropriate participation of students shall be determined by sex rather than gender or gender identity.”
Progressive advocates responded sharply to the new policy. Narissa Rahaman, the executive director of the pro-LGBT group Equality Virginia, said in a statement that the group would do “everything in our power to make sure your school district rejects [the new rules].”
The Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said in a tweet that school boards “have an obligation to provide safe and inclusive school environments for ALL students.”
“It’s incumbent upon them to implement policies that value all students, including trans and nonbinary youth,” the group wrote.
Youngkin, meanwhile, said in a press release that the new rules “reaffirm my administration’s continued commitment to ensure that every parent is involved in conversations regarding their child’s education, upbringing, and care.”
“Public comment, input, and concerns were carefully evaluated and assessed to formulate the updated model policies,” Youngkin said.
“The Department of Education has delivered policies that empower parents, prohibit discrimination, create a safe and vibrant learning environment by addressing bullying incidents immediately, and protect the privacy and dignity of all students through bathroom policies, athletic procedures, and student identification measures,” he added.