Board adopts updated transgender policy recommended by governor

Published 6:24 pm Wednesday, September 20, 2023

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The Southampton County School Board voted 7-0 on Monday, Sept. 11, to adopt the updated transgender policy recommended by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

Board Member Greg Scott was not present in person or electronically at the time of the vote.

The board was first presented with the updated policy at its Aug. 14 meeting.

“I recommend that we adopt the transgender policy that was recommended by Gov. Youngkin,” Southampton County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gwendolyn P. Shannon said. “The premise behind his policy was parental notification and parents being involved, so almost every line talks about parents.”

Board Chair Dr. Deborah Goodwyn asked if any board members had any questions about the policy.

“To me this policy is not inconsistent with what we already do, because we do stress nondiscrimination in Southampton County Public Schools,” she said. “So I think the policy aligns with our practice.”

There was no further discussion prior to the 7-0 vote.

The Associated Press reported that Youngkin’s administration had finalized in July its Model Policies on Ensuring Privacy, Dignity and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools.

The AP noted that the updated policies on the treatment of transgender students would direct school districts to roll back existing accommodations and increase parental notification requirements about certain discussions involving gender identity.

“This is about doing what’s best for the child,” Youngkin said in an interview with 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.”

The updated model policies document states that schools shall respect parents’ values and beliefs.

“Parents have the right to instill and nurture values and beliefs for their own children and make decisions concerning their children’s education and upbringing in accordance with their customs, faith and family culture,” the document states.

Following are a few highlights from the updated model policies document:

  • “Schools shall defer to parents to make the best decisions with respect to their children: Parents are in the best position to work with their children and, where appropriate, their children’s health care providers to determine (a) what names, nicknames, and/or pronouns, if any, 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.”
  • “These 2023 Model Policies adhere to the First Amendment. The First Amendment forbids government actors to require individuals to adhere to or adopt any particular ideological beliefs. Practices such as compelling others to use preferred pronouns is premised on the ideological belief that gender is a matter of personal choice or subjective experience, not sex. Many Virginians reject this belief. Additionally, the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom and prohibits compelling others to affirm ideas that may be contrary to their personal religious beliefs.”
  • “For any school program, event, or activity (including extracurricular activities) that are separated by sex, the appropriate participation of students shall be determined by sex rather than gender or gender identity. [Southampton County Public Schools] shall provide reasonable modifications to this policy only to the extent required by law.”
  • “Where state or federal law requires schools to permit transgender students to share otherwise sex-segregated facilities (such as bathrooms or locker rooms) with students of the opposite sex, parents should be given the right to opt their child out of using such facilities, and the child should be given access to alternative facilities that promote the child’s privacy and safety. Eligible students should also be given the right to opt out of using such facilities and be given access to alternative facilities.”
  • “An ‘eligible student’ is a student or former student who is 18 years of age or older or a student under the age of 18 who is emancipated.”
  • “Students shall use bathrooms that correspond to his or her sex, except to the extent that federal law otherwise requires. See Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board, 972 F.3d 586 (4th Cir. 2020).”
  • “Single-user bathrooms and facilities should be made available in accessible areas and provided with appropriate signage, indicating accessibility for all students.”
  • “Students with a diagnosis of gender dysphoria made by a licensed health care provider should consult with their school’s ADA coordinator regarding any requested services.”
  • “For any athletic program or activity that is separated by sex, the appropriate participation of students shall be determined by sex rather than gender or gender identity. [Southampton County Public Schools] shall provide reasonable modifications to this policy only to the extent required by law.”