The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has released new policies that require schools to allow parents to direct the upbringing of their children, including alerting them if a child is discussing or showing any indications of gender confusion.
Two years ago, the VDOE released model policies that encouraged schools to affirm a child’s chosen gender identity without any proof that the child was transitioning and without informing parents. Following the release of those model policies, several schools began allowing students to use whatever pronoun or name they wanted, allowed them to use the bathroom or locker room of their preferred gender identity, and allowed them to compete on sports teams of the opposite biological sex.
Schools would also put children on gender transition plans, which involved seeing a school counselor who would help the child transition, but officials and teachers hid the child’s gender confusion from parents, claiming it was dangerous to inform them. These rules, enacted under the previous administration, caused outrage among parents, resulting in lawsuits and heated school board meetings. They also encouraged schools to deceive parents, which led to tragedy for a number of Virginia students and families.
Last week, the VDOE released new policies entitled, “Model Policies on Ensuring Privacy, Dignity, And Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools.”
The new policies require schools to use the pronouns that match a child’s sex unless given explicit consent from parents. The document also expresses the importance of allowing the parents to raise their child according to their views.
Though it is being characterized as anti-transgender, the policies give parents the ability to decide what is best for their child and how their child will be treated, rather than school officials. “Parents have the right to instill and nurture values and beliefs for their own children and make decisions concerning their children’s education and upbringing in accordance with their customs, faith, and family culture,” the model policies state.
As for a child using different names or pronouns, the policies add, “Parents are in the best position to work with their children and, where appropriate, their children’s health care providers to determine (a) what names, nicknames, and/or pronouns, if any, shall be used for their child by teachers and school staff while their child is at school, (b) whether their child engages in any counseling or social transition at school that encourages a gender that differs from their child’s sex, or (c) whether their child expresses a gender that differs with their child’s sex while at school.”
The document also says that schools must keep parents informed of all matters “reasonably expected to be important to a parent, including, and without limitation, matters related to their child’s health, and social and psychological development.”
Unlike previous model policies, the new policies seek to respect both transgender students and students who feel distress or safety concerns over being forced to use a facility with a person of the opposite sex. The policies state:
“To ensure that all students have access to a learning environment in which they feel comfortable and safe, where state or federal law requires schools to permit transgender students to share otherwise sex-segregated facilities (such as bathrooms or locker rooms) with students of the opposite sex, parents should be given the right to opt their child out of using such facilities, and the child should be given access to alternative facilities that promote the child’s privacy and safety.”
The 2023 Model Policies also criticize the polices implemented in 2021, saying, “The 2021 Model Policies promoted a specific viewpoint aimed at achieving cultural and social transformation in schools. The 2021 Model Policies also disregarded the rights of parents and ignored other legal and constitutional principles that significantly impact how schools educate students, including transgender students.”
It went on to explain,
“These 2023 Model Policies adhere to the First Amendment. The First Amendment forbids government actors to require individuals to adhere to or adopt any particular ideological beliefs. Practices such as compelling others to use preferred pronouns is premised on the ideological belief that gender is a matter of personal choice or subjective experience, not sex. Many Virginians reject this belief. Additionally, the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom and prohibits compelling others to affirm ideas that may be contrary to their personal religious beliefs.”
Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Lisa Coons said the policies, “provide families the opportunity to weigh in on their child’s decisions and be a partner in their education…. We are elevating parents and giving them a seat at the table.”
Those maligning these policies give away their ideological goal: They want schools to act as social change agents, shaping students in their ideological image when parents do not tow the leftist line. There is nothing overtly religious or conservative about these policies; they do not ban students from using different names or pronouns or acting as the opposite sex. These policies do, however, protect parental rights, providing much-needed transparency and allowing parents rather than schools to direct their child’s upbringing. These policies also stop the all-too-common practice of putting the desires of LGBT students above the rights and safety of other students.
Students and faculty should not be forced to use a person’s preferred pronouns and violate their consciences. Students should not be compelled to share a bathroom or locker room with a person of the opposite sex. A LGBT student’s feelings do not supersede these important rights.
Whereas the old policies attempted to force society to change to affirm transgender ideology and to allow teachers and counselors to usurp the rights of parents by helping transition students in secrecy, these policies honor the parent-child relationship, they honor government transparency, and they honor the First Amendment. As such, Virginia’s new model policies are a model that every state should look to emulate and adopt.
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