RICHMOND, Va. (BP) – New conservative policies intended to guide Virginia public schools in the treatment of transgender students are not discriminatory, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares said in an official opinion released Aug. 24.
But it’s not clear whether the policy will be enforced statewide, with some school districts disagreeing as the state insists compliance.
The policies state that students should use bathrooms and play on gender-specific sports teams aligning with their biological sex and that parents should have the authority in determining which personal pronouns are used to refer to their children.
“The Model Policies ensure that all students are treated with dignity and that parental involvement remains at the center,” Miyares said in announcing his official opinion delivered after in inquiry by Gov. Glenn Youngkin. “These policies are fully compliant with the law, and school boards across the Commonwealth should support and implement them.”
The policies comply with the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, federal Title IX civil rights law and the Virginia Human Rights Act, Miyares said, and state law requires school boards to “adopt policies consistent with them.”
The Virginia Department of Education’s “Model Policies on Ensuring Privacy, Dignity and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia Public Schools,” adopted in July, are intended as a guide for the state’s 132 public school districts to use in establishing local policies.
The policies offer guidance in leading students who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, and offer guidance in rules for dress, overnight school trips and related circumstances. The guidance replaces rules established under the prior gubernatorial administration that tended to accommodate students based on transgender identity.
“This is about doing what’s best for the child,” Youngkin has told the Associated Press. “And oh, by the way, also recognizing that we need to ensure the privacy and dignity and respect of all children and all parents in the school system. And that’s what I think we have … very carefully constructed here.”
Some school districts are following the guidance while others have said they won’t, the Associated Press reported Aug. 24.
Among districts rejecting the policy is Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS), which stated legal precedent in its decision.
“In Gloucester County School Board v Grimm, the U.S. Court of Appeals clarified that any public school that denies a transgender student the right to access its school programs and facilities, consistent with the student’s gender identity, is engaging in discrimination on the basis of sex in violation of Title IX and the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution,” the district wrote Aug. 17.
“PWCS already has a regulation in place to address the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming students in our schools,” the district wrote. “(The local regulation) is consistent with both federal and state anti-discrimination laws, and PWCS employees will continue to follow this regulation.”
The state’s model policy includes no penalties for noncompliance, and legal experts have said it’s not clear how the policies would be enforced, if at all. But Youngkin has said school districts will have no choice but to follow the guidance.
“It’s the law. The law is very clear that I issue model policies and local school districts have to adopt policies consistent with the model policies,” Youngkin said on a recent FOX News broadcast. “And I would add to the fact that this is common sense.”