Following months of often rancorous public discussion, the Virginia Beach School Board Tuesday night failed to pass a resolution to adopt recently updated transgender “model policies” Tuesday night.
The resolution introduced by board member Victoria Manning is the latest in many considered by school boards across Virginia who are required to adopt the newly released guidelines from the Virginia Department of Education.
The motion to adopt the resolution failed 5-5, with one abstention.
The VDOE released the first version of the policies titled “Ensuring Privacy, Dignity and Respect” in September 2022, then updated them this past July focus on parents’ rights “to make decisions with respect to their children.”
The policies which each of Virginia’s schools systems would be required to adopt have been criticized by LGBTQ advocates and organizations over language that they say is discriminatory against transgender youth, some of which include passages related to a parent’s knowledge of their child’s gender identity.
They require schools to use student names matching the sex on their official record. They also outline that teachers and other school personnel may not refer to a student by a different name or pronoun unless parents request the switch in writing. And students would be required to use school facilities matching the sex on their official record.
Virginia Beach’s action follows in the footsteps of similar decisions to maintain existing guidelines by Fairfax County, Prince William County and Arlington.
Meanwhile, some Hampton Roads school districts have already adopted some form of the policies:
- Newport News Public Schools is following the Virginia Department of Education’s model policy of respect for all students.
- Suffolk Public Schools also requires students to get a document signed by parents to use the child’s preferred pronouns or gender. Teachers also have to alert parents if their child confides in them about being transgender.
- In Hampton teachers are not required to share a student’s gender identity with parents if the student is worried about their safety at home. The school division and staff will follow whatever gender and pronouns the student prefers.
- In Chesapeake staff are expected to ensure a safe and supportive environment for all students. There are also gender-neutral bathrooms available.
- In Norfolk, no public information on the school division’s policies is available on the Norfolk Public Schools’ web site. However, School Board Chairperson Dr. Adale Martin responded to recent inquiry regarding the status by saying, “NPS leadership is aware of Gov. Youngkin’s proposed model policy. NPS has a non-discrimination policy in place and will continue to adhere to our current policy. We do not see any reason nor are we required to adopt a “model policy” at this time.”
Youngkin appeared Monday on Fox News to warn school divisions that are refusing to adopt the model policies, saying they “don’t have a choice” and they have to “stop thinking that they know more than parents.”
“It’s the law,” he said. “The law is very clear that I issue model policies and local school districts have to adopt policies consistent with the model policies.”