RE: Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia's Public Schools.
My comments are as follows:
In general, I would strongly support that all person, regardless of their gender preferences, be treated with respect, kindness and afforded all opportunity to learn in an a physically and emotionally safe environment. No one should live in fear.
I do not support how VA proposes to apply these goals.
A first concern has to do with bathroom access. I have a 16 year old cis gender son. I care about his wellbeing and others like him who would struggle with using an open bathroom or locker room with someone who is not similarly cisgender male. Their discomfort matters too. I hope this policy, without having read it, addresses the need for private changing areas.
Other issues include taking disciplinary actions against anyone who fails to use the student's preferred pronoun. This sounds draconian. It will work itself out in time without using fear tactics. It will take time for people to adjust but we all will. Panic and shame over miss identifying someone is counterproductive and destructive to any person especially ones like my child has special emotional and social challenges and is covered by and IEP who struggle already with emotional regulation. Living in fear or shame about using the wrong pronoun is not emotionally healthy for anyone. Asking people to use the preferred gender out of kindness will work. Most students will comply and make the adjustment if done injecting fear. Solutions short of disciplinary actions will address most of the rest.
Not requiring parental notification about gender identity issues with their child is not in the best interests of the child. Parents know their children better than anyone. Scientific studies have shown some children work their gender issues out in time without medical intervention. Parents know best if this is a valid issue or if it's just some current social trend. There is already evidence of this societal/peer pressure as a motivator not real gender identify issues. It's a serious matter to take medical steps to change gender. It's a difficult issue no matter what. It should be done only when fully informed. The parent, who knows their child best, has to be part of the equation.
Not allowing any questioning of anyone entering a restroom. How does this protect against predators? This policy prevents administrators and teachers from protecting students. It makes them afraid to intervene when they have serious concerns. This is diametrically opposite to providing a physically and emotionally safe environment.
It is not acceptable to assume that "non support" or helping a child to sort out their gender identity by parents constitutes "abuse." No one loves their child more than a parent. No one wants their child's happiness better than a parent. Allowing a child whose brain is still forming (whose executive functioning, judgement and reasoning skills are still biologically and scientifically documented to be still under development) to make profound life changing decisions without the involvement and counsel of their parents, the ones who love them most, is morally wrong.
I have a child who is ADHD. Support for my child's special challenges by the Arlington County Public School system was abysmal. We had to move away. The school did not care for my child as much as I did. I was constantly having to advocate for him. The incompetence and disregard for him was extraordinary. I have no confidence in any institution, other than a family, to care for my child as much as a parent would. While I have encountered caring teachers and staff members, this is not universal and in some cases seriously lacking and surely did not last beyond the time in that school. Given the vast numbers of children in the schools and overall in the state, the government is not able to give my child the depth of love and attention they need. That is the purpose of the family. That is why the family exists...to care for the child, moment by moment, day by day for a lifetime. Try as it might, a school cannot do that. It doesn't have enough people, enough money or enough information. A family never loses care for their child...never and for this reason should never be cut out of the equation.
Finally, I just learned about this policy today. I follow the news but was only made aware of this policy through a friend. Watching the video conference reveals strong predisposition for seeking positive feedback so that the guidance can be implemented. This creates a cause to distrust your commitment to ensuring all voices are heard. It conveys a predisposition to seeking and ensuring only positive feedback. This calls into question whether VA made aggressive efforts to ensure affected communities knew about this policy with adequate time to consider and make comment. I had only a few hours to listen to the video conference, skim other comments and draft up a response. I think your efforts to get the word out where marginal and based on my earlier comment, I suspect targeted to those audiences that would give you positive feedback so you can say, "Most of the comments were favorable." Perhaps this is not the case but all appearances say otherwise. This is contrary to the highest principles of good public administration.