The new policies, which must be adopted by all of Virginia’s public school districts, prohibit schools and school staff from accommodating a student’s request to use a different name or pronoun at school unless the child’s parent provides written permission. The finalized policy released Tuesday also requires students to participate in school athletics programs and use bathroom facilities consistent with their biological sex.
“The VDOE updated model policies reaffirm my administration’s continued commitment to ensure that every parent is involved in conversations regarding their child’s education, upbringing, and care,” Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) said of the new policies. “The Department of Education has delivered policies that empower parents, prohibit discrimination, create a safe and vibrant learning environment by addressing bullying incidents immediately, and protect the privacy and dignity of all students through bathroom policies, athletic procedures, and student identification measures.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia said it is “horrified” by the new model policies in a statement released Wednesday.
“We are horrified that VDOE opted to move forward with proposed model policies that at best invite — and at worst, require — discrimination, that violate state and federal law, and that have no place in Virginia schools,” ACLU of Virginia policy and legislative counsel Breanna Diaz said. “This action ignores the voices of a clear majority of Virginians who submitted comments opposing the model policies when the department first proposed them.”
But parent activists were quick to praise the new policies for protecting parental rights, a key aspect of Youngkin’s successful gubernatorial bid in 2021.
“It’s no secret that the previous administration’s model policies and the manner in which they were implemented were an inflection point in the 2021 Virginia elections and, ultimately, the parent’s rights movement that spread throughout the country,” said Ian Prior, a senior adviser at America First Legal and the executive director of Fight for Schools. “In 2021, several school boards said that they had no choice but to pass the previous model policies, much of which was unconstitutional. If they now refuse to comply with these updated policies, they will certainly find those words thrown back at them in the board room, in the media, and in the courts.”
Alex Nester, the political director of Parents Defending Education Action, told the Washington Examiner in a statement that the group was “encouraged” by the Youngkin administration’s efforts to support parents and students.
“PDE Action applauds Governor Youngkin’s continued support for parents,” Nester said. “Parent advocates also deserve credit for their dedication. In the face of threats, including from public officials, Virginia parents have stood strong. They continue to fight for their kids. These policies are a huge win for those parents, and they should be so proud of their courage and their efforts.”