Youngkin’s Draft Model Education Policy Produces Pushback

Virginia’s governor, Glenn Youngkin, proposed a new policy for Virginia public schools that includes suggestions about the involvement of parents in schools in general and including transgender rights specifically. The new policy states “Parents are in the best position to work with their children, and where appropriate, their child’s health care providers to determine (a) what names, nicknames, and/or pronouns, 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.”

Excerpt from the VA DOE Model Policy 2022

Youngkin’s proposed policy would require teachers or other school administrators to use a student’s assigned gender and pronouns rather than their preferred ones. The same goes with their preferred names or other nicknames in general, for all students. The only way that a student would be able to be called by their preferred name is if a parent specifically informs the teacher/school that their child shall be called by a specific name. It also would require that teachers must notify parents if a child has any discussion of gender or sexual identity with them. 

The has now gone into a 30-day public comment period which allows the public to make statements or arguments related to the new publication. It helps the board make a final decision on the new policy because of what the response might be from the direct public.

Mrs. Mary Mathewson, English teacher and adviser for the GSA (Gender Sexuality Alliance), says that this policy could push kids into the closet. “Kids who are trying to find out who they are should have a safe place where they can be themselves in school,” she said.

Luke Giglio, president of the GSA, says the policy is intentionally left vague with the only solid statements being that schools must protect students and talk to parents, “The current draft model policies will not automatically affect trans people,” he said.  “Their guiding principles are to be sensitive to parents. Then the state wants the school boards to implement transphobic lies. It’s a lot of legal mumbo jumbo. And that’s the whole point for it to be legal mumbo jumbo, to scare trans kids.” 

Giglio says that not only will it make it harder for transgender students to get their names changed on transcripts, trans students would have to be grouped based on their sex in gendered activities, like sports teams and over night trips. 

The policy would affect students all over Virginia, especially students who identify as transgender, nonbinary, or as other sexuality’s on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. “It would affect how students’ express themselves, their mental health, and their grades,” comments a transgender student who did not want to be identified by name. “It would give them trust issues, could cause depression and anxiety, and they wouldn’t have an adult to talk about what they’re going through.” 

Most teachers want the focus back on teaching students, Mathewson states

“This is a very political town. Politics and education over the last 20 years don’t play nice. Teachers want to do their jobs. They don’t care about mandates, they just want to teach kids. They want to meet kids where they are, and the mandate is telling them not to.”

— Mrs. Mary Mathewson, English Teacher

However, following Youngkin’s announcement, “…FCPS remains committed to an inclusive learning environment for each and every student and staff member and that our schools will continue to be safe and respectful learning spaces,” Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent Michelle Reid wrote in an email to FCPS parents.

The Pride Liberation Project has announced a walkout for 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, Sept.27 protesting the policies according to senior Mara Surovell. This walkout will also be county wide, taking place at other FCPS schools including Fairfax HS and Hayfield. Local and state representatives will also be in attendance, she said.

“I’m really disappointed [with the policy], because it just adds on to everything that’s happening politically,” Surovell said.