Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Education
State Board of Education
Guidance Document Change: The Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools guidance document was developed in response to House Bill 145 and Senate Bill 161, enacted by the 2020 Virginia General Assembly, which directed the Virginia Department of Education to develop and make available to each school board model policies concerning the treatment of transgender students in public elementary and secondary schools. These guidelines address common issues regarding transgender students in accordance with evidence-based best practices and include information, guidance, procedures, and standards relating to: compliance with applicable nondiscrimination laws; maintenance of a safe and supportive learning environment free from discrimination and harassment for all students; prevention of and response to bullying and harassment; maintenance of student records; identification of students; protection of student privacy and the confidentiality of sensitive information; enforcement of sex-based dress codes; and student participation in sex-specific school activities, events, and use of school facilities.
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2/3/21  10:00 pm
Commenter: G. Schumacher

Too Many Issues with Practicality and Non-Consideration of the Rights of Other Students and Teachers

 I oppose the forced implementation of these policies. Of course no student should be stigmatized, harassed or bullied for any reason. That said, the proposed policies mandate compliance with a set of behaviors that are likely to create uncomfortable, impractical and sometimes even unsafe situations.

On page 8, the document states that the VDOE "...continues to be committed to working with school divisions to ensure a positive, safe, and nurturing learning environment for all students." But these model policies are totally slanted to the self-identified transgender students, magnifying their comfort level above those of the vast majority of the student body. The document says very little about accommodating the beliefs and feelings of the non-transgender students. In other words, though the document often cites equality based on a number of beliefs and attributes, the model policies seem to establish the rights of transgender students as carrying more weight and advocacy should these rights come in conflict with the rights of other students, such as the right to not have to share bathroom and locker facilities with persons whom present according to their biological sex. Will school administrators and ombudsmen take up the cause of students who have these concerns, or will their advocacy only extend to the transgender students? Will the sole focus or reconciliation policies be to get non-transgender students to accept these policies, or will they actually try to accommodate these student beliefs and feelings equally?

As to practicality, how many students by percentage will these policies affect? I don't know the estimated percentages, but my assumption is it is very small. The number of resources and amount of education dedicated to accommodation and enforcement seem way out of proportion to schools achieving their intended purpose of teaching our students and providing a safe educational environment  where all students are treated with dignity and respect for their beliefs, without regard to who they are.

While not addressing the overall numbers, a statistic cited in one of the references jumped out at me. The research study looked at the effects of positive family acceptance of the student's self-proclaimed gender as cutting suicide ideation and attempts in half. While that is a positive statistic, the study revealed what "half" is - from 38.3% to 18.5% in suicide ideation, and from 56.8% to 30.9% in suicide attempts. These are not healthy statistics. 

Another practical aspect has to do with the policies minimizing gender-based organizations. That means no more men's or women's glee clubs, as an example. The male and female voices are different. It's biology. It's science, if you will.  And sports and Title IX are another issue, and get into the safety aspect.

Consider the recent situation in Connecticut where transgender females wiped out all of the previous  women's records in track. Similar results have occurred in weightlifting.  A number of female athletes are complaining about losing records and scholarships to biological males who identify as transgender females. Not only does this open the door to injuries with biological males competing against biological females, it can have impacts on achievement and scholarships. There is a reason we have male and female competitions. And yet, when female athletes, and perhaps their parents, complain about this, they are vilified and shamed. So much for equal treatment.

I will repeat what I said at the beginning. There is no place for transgenders, or any student, to be bullied or harassed for their beliefs. But instead of treating all beliefs and feelings equally, these policies create all kinds of special accommodations and multiple, mandated changes throughout the system for one specific group at the expense of the vast majority.

CommentID: 96760