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Where school divisions across the state stand as Virginia Beach rejects transgender resolution

Of at least seven divisions across the state that have debated the policy, some have already adopted it. Others have stated they will maintain guidelines.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The rejection of a transgender policy resolution at the Virginia Beach School Board Tuesday night is the most recent decision in Virginia regarding the state's latest transgender model policies, as divisions across the state begin to weigh their old versus new policy updates.

Of at least seven divisions across the state that have debated the policy, some have already adopted it. Others have publicly stated they will maintain their old transgender education guidelines.

Spotsylvania and Pittsylvania counties have each adopted versions of the "Ensuring Privacy, Dignity and Respect" model policies, introduced by Gov. Glenn Youngkin and the Department of Education. Supporters argue it focuses on empowering parents to have better knowledge of their child's education and experience. 

Northern Virginia divisions, such as Fairfax County, Prince William County and Arlington, have cited that their old policies adequately protect transgender students while being in compliance with the law. 

A statement from Arlington's superintendent writes:

I oppose any policy that infringes upon the rights of our students and threatens the safety and well-being of our LGBTQIA+ students. 

In Fairfax County, Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid wrote that students will continue to be called by their chosen names and pronouns, and be able to access bathrooms and facilities consistent with their gender identity. 

The Virginia Beach vote, following a resolution introduced by board member Victoria Manning, was split between five votes in favor, five votes against and one member abstaining. That caused the vote to fail. 

LGBTQ advocates and organizations have criticized the policies 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:

"No policy, guidance, training, or other written material issued by the [School Division] may encourage or instruct teachers to conceal material information about a student from the student’s parent, including information related to gender. Provided, however, that [School Division] will comply with all laws that prohibit disclosure of information to parents, including but not limited to Code of Virginia § 22.1-272.1(B) (prohibiting parental contact where student is at imminent risk of suicide related to parental abuse or neglect).

The policies also include language directing school staff to only identify students using pronouns that align with their birth sex.

“When I’m out of school in the real world, I don’t want to be treated differently based on the fact I’m transgender. Want to be treated with the same level of respect," incoming Virginia Beach senior Jae Cook said ahead of the Virginia Beach vote. 

"It's disguised in this way that it's supposed to be a good thing," said Cook. 

In a recent television interview, Governor Youngkin said "it's the law" for school divisions to adopt these model policies, as school districts are now either adopting or rejecting the adoption of the guidelines.

Prince William County Public Schools announced Thursday it would continue to adhere to its own policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, arguing that denying a transgender student the right to access school programs and facilities violates Title IX and the U.S. Constitution.

"The parents rights argument really only benefits parents trying to raise the trans-ness out of their kids," Natalie Gonzalez said, who also spoke at the meeting. 

In Richmond, the city's school superintendent will recommend to the school board to reject the model policies, citing the school system motto "to teach, lead, and serve with love."

"Superintendent [Jason] Kamras' recommendation to the Board will be for RPS to maintain its current policies on transgender students and reject the state's new model guidance," a spokesperson told 13News Now.

13News Now reached out to the offices of Youngkin and Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares for comment. A spokesperson for Miyares replied by saying, "the Attorney General expects the school boards to follow the law."

What do the other school divisions locally look like?

Divisions in Newport News, Hampton and Portsmouth all still follow previous model policies adopted in 2021 under the previous Ralph Northam administration. Those policies vary in language, but all contain information and procedural steps accommodating to a student's gender identity in an educational setting. 

Norfolk Public Schools does not have an explicitly written out transgender policy available in their student handbook, but their website links to LGBTQ+ youth resources. In Chesapeake, a spokesperson for the division said the protections are built into its non-discriminatory policies. 

Suffolk's school board has also recently discussed how to update its policies to reflect the updated guidelines. 

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