(The Center Square) – The Chesapeake School Board in Virginia failed to adopt any new policies to address the treatment of transgender students despite a state law that requires them to do so.
In a board meeting Monday evening, residents cast a wide range of opinions about a proposal, which would allow transgender students to use restrooms and enroll in athletics in accordance with their gender identity, even if it does not match their biological sex. Opponents argued the policy would remove parental control over their children and many supporters argued the plan would be an improvement to protect transgender students, but would not do enough.
Although one board member, Patricia King, motioned to hold a vote on the proposal, she failed to get a second, which effectively failed the proposal and prevented even a vote.
Virginia lawmakers passed legislation that required school boards to adopt policies that recognized certain rights for transgender students for this school year. The bill granted some discretion in how it would be written and enforced, but did not allow schools to opt out of adopting a policy.
Some of the rules, which local school boards are required to adopt, include allowing a transgender student to use bathrooms, locker rooms and other facilities that align with the student’s self-identified gender. It also requires the schools allow them to access athletic programs or other activities that align with their self-identified gender. It mandates they take prohibit discrimination and bullying and update records to match preferred name and gender, unless they are legal documents that require legal name and sex.
Other school boards have not yet adopted new transgender policies with the school year quickly approaching. Recently, the Newport News School Board opted against adopting transgender policies. However, the board will hold another meeting in which it will consider another vote.
Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane, who oversees the commonwealth’s public schools, wrote a letter to school districts, which said all school boards that fail to adopt a policy will assume all legal responsibility for noncompliance. Although state funding is not tied to the mandate, he said a school could be subject to civil litigation if it does not have policies that align with the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies.
Some school board policies have been subjected to controversy and threats of lawsuits, including Loudoun County’s new policies. These policies require staff to use the preferred name, gender and pronouns of a student at the request of the student or the parent. This requirement, which has raised free speech concerns, have led to one lawsuit regarding the suspension of a teacher and at least one teacher quitting over the policy.