A county school board in Virginia last week rejected the state’s new policy regarding the treatment of transgender students after hundreds of community members showed up to voice their opposition to the rule changes.
Watched by a crowd of nearly 500 concerned citizens, the Russell County school board on July 16 voted 7–0 to reject the transgender model policy passed down by the Virginia Department of Education, according to conservative Christian group Family Foundation of Virginia. The board also voted to not incorporate critical race theory into the classroom.
Under the new policy (pdf), which is expected to be implemented across the state this fall, public schools are required to “accept a student’s assertion of their gender identity without requiring any particular substantiating evidence, including diagnosis, treatment, or legal documents.”
Specifically, the new policy will grant students access to restrooms and locker rooms that align with their preferred gender identity. School staff will also have to refer to students by their preferred names or gender pronouns.
Bob Gibson, a school board member whose three children attend the county’s public schools, said that every child should be provided with a safe place where they can grow and learn without fear of any political ideology that isn’t consistent with the community’s values.
“I was elected by the citizens of Russell County, and I intend to stand up for the citizens of Russell County and not for an overreaching state government that is out of sync with Russell County values,” he said at a press conference before the board meeting.
The model policies themselves “violated various state and federal laws, including infringing upon numerous fundamental rights of students, parents, and teachers,” according to Josh Hetzler, an attorney from the Founding Freedoms Law Center, a Richmond-based conservative legal group challenging the policies in court.
“Because of how legally problematic the VDOE’s model policies are, not to mention the likelihood of tangible harms to student’s bodily privacy, safety, and dignity in private spaces—and to parental rights—the school board simply cannot adopt policies consistent with the existing model policies,” said Hetzler.
Meanwhile, the Virginia Department of Education claimed that the board’s decision was likely a violation of the state law.
“The 2020 legislation (House Bill 145 and Senate Bill 161) requires local school boards to ‘adopt policies that are consistent with but may be more comprehensive than the model policies developed by the Virginia Department of Education’ by the start of the 2021-2022 school year,” a VDOE spokesperson told the Washington Examiner. “It is the responsibility of the local school board to follow the law.”
Virginia, which serves over 1.2 million public school students, has become ground zero in a nationwide fight between parents and school districts seeking to promote leftist activism such as critical race theory—an ideology rooted in Marxist class struggle but with an emphasis on race, with the goal of dismantling American institutions it deems inherently and irredeemably racist.