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[OPINION] Youngkin’s Model Policies Causing Angst Across the 757

Governor Youngkin’s “Model Policies on Ensuring Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools” sounds reasonable, as these things often do, if one goes based solely on the title. Advocates for transgender and gender nonconforming youth across the Commonwealth, however, know that “all” does not include the aforementioned students in our schools. These policies require forced outing of these students to parents, disallow bathroom usage matching a student’s gender identity, and bar counselors from discussing gender identity with students without parental consent.

In School Districts across the Commonwealth, the fear that these policies would be implemented after they were officially released in July of 2023 has been palpable. In the 757, Virginia Beach and Newport News have adopted portions of the discriminatory policies. Suffolk modified their adopted policies to allow bathroom usage with gender identity and also allowed for a mental health professional to submit documentation to allow students to preferred pronouns if it would pose a risk to a student’s health. Hampton and Portsmouth have kept in place 2021 policies from the Northam Administration (which affirmed and protected trans youth) while Norfolk has no specific transgender policy in place.

The next city evaluating these policies is Chesapeake. In 2021, Chesapeake refused to adopt the Northam Administration model policies, yet they did add “gender identity” to their list of protected classes in their anti-discrimination policy. In December, however, the School Board introduced new policies to align with the Youngkin Administration model policies. At the January 29th meeting, the policies were announced to be on the consent agenda for the next meeting on February 12th.

Advocates across Hampton Roads held a rally at the January 8th board meeting to oppose the policies. Speakers from Calos Coalition, Pride in the ‘Peake, Thriving Transmen of Color, COVA Coalition, and more shared personal stories and the damage these policies would inflict upon trans and nonbinary students in Chesapeake Public Schools. At the January 29th meeting, representatives from the Chesapeake Education Association, Hampton Roads Business OutReach (HRBOR), and Pride in the ‘Peake spoke to the board in opposition as well.

Thus far, not a single board member has made any public comment in regards to the model policies in favor or in opposition. Interestingly, not a single public speaker has spoken in favor of these policies while numerous speakers have spoken in opposition at the last three board meetings.

Advocates for these students are asking anyone who wishes to show support to attend (and speak if comfortable) the upcoming board meeting on February 12 at 6pm at the School Administration Building at 312 Cedar Rd, Chesapeake, VA 23322. Speakers can call 757-547-1047 prior to noon on February 12th or sign up in person prior to 5:55pm.

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Jeremy Rodden is an experienced educator, author, and advocate as well as the co-founder of Pride in the ‘Peake, Chesapeake’s youth/family-focused Pride event. He is also the father of a transgender teen and two CPS students. You can learn more about Pride in the ‘Peake’s mission and events at www.prideinthepeake.org.

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