I've reviewed your proposed policy on the treatment of transgendered students and am grieved as a mother of 2 girls, ages under 7, who are/will be in the public school system in Virginia. The policy is radical and threatens parental authority, my kids' safety, and my and my children's religious rights. The policy is based not on biology/science but instead people's feelings, which we know are ever so fickle especially in children. Gender identity by definition is subjective, opinion-based with no objective measures that can be applied, but this policy has potentially extreme punishments for people who are perceived as not being supportive of those who decide to make themselves a new identity.
It's so bizarre to me that in this nation where we have and celebrate technology that can tell us the sex/gender of the unborn by 1) a blood test as early as 7 weeks after conception or 2) the amazing ultrasounds of today (3-D, 4-D) and simultaneously fight for the right to deny such celebrated information post birth. Have you pondered how we so comfortably talk out of both sides of our mouths?
I do not want any school member having conversations with my kids without my knowledge or frankly with my knowledge on this subject, no thank you to "helping them explore or make decisions" about gender identity. Anything you do in secret is wrong. I expect transparency. I am not abusing my child if I disagree with her stance on this and am saying so, despite kids' big emotions and reactions.
On the same topic, your policy states that I wouldn't be notified if one of my kids did something perceived as an offense against another student/teacher that the school investigates. Parents are to be partners in the educational process in everything else except this? Teachers reach out to share concerns about other behaviors, grades, etc. but can't about this topic unless it needs resolving at the school level? I would want a chance to ask my kids about it, address with my kids how one should behave, my expectations going forward, etc. I can't even try to help my kids or intervene on their behalf with this.
My family's faith is the foundation for our home. If I choose to continue to teach my kids about how God created male and female, that they are different and complementary, and he imprinted them with DNA and body parts that shows this as well, then my freedom to practice my faith is called into question when your policies say I could be reported to CPS if I continue the same conversations I've had with my kids since their birth. "You are a little girl. He is a little boy." None of these conversations have been to hurt others. They state biological facts. I also teach that we are supposed to love one another (which we can do by the way without being supportive about every opinion they have or decision they make) but to what extent are we supposed to reshape everything to fit the whim of the moment?
On that point, kids need stability and to know the rules and expectations. This policy makes it so that the rules are really whatever an individual says on whatever day they say it is. Today, I feel like a female, so today you must all refer to me as she. Tomorrow, I feel like a male, so call me he. Does this make sense to anyone but the person? How can all others appropriately handle this situation, which is a legitimate situation? Just look on social media to see how often some people change their minds about these things.
I am not comfortable with anyone choosing their bathroom or locker room whenever and without notification of why. Maybe this is less of any issue in elementary school but after puberty begins, I have concerns of the abuse of this rule, safety of my daughters, or any potential of my daughters seeing male genitalia in person while students change into and out of gym clothes.
There is no way to make things work for all, but this policy seems to tip the scales out of balance for the majority who abide by the belief that the sex they were born equals their gender and for a lifetime. Will there be a fear of offending transgender people? People across the board are so easily offended by everything these days. So most will tiptoe around it, not out of acceptance but fear. Is that progress for anyone?
We teach children over time that they are capable of managing their feelings and are expected to but that they are also entitled to their opinions. How do we navigate this fairly between children with different viewpoints on this? If one voices an opinion that is contrary to transgenderism/fluid gender identity, then feelings are inevitably invoked for those transgender students. It appears that when one does not support this choice or has a difference in opinion about this topic, then it's automatically discriminatory. But the feelings of the transgendered student are not expected to be managed in this case, nor is mutual respect ensured. The choice to go against one's born sex is choice made by a subjective opinion by the transgendered individual alone and still that one's opinion is more important/valid than any another's. When situations come up, maybe it is more fair to also expect that feelings can also be managed and opinions of all can be respected.
Ultimately, the policies provide absolutely no exceptions or accommodations for a student or teacher whose religious faith, conscience, or understanding of biology and sociology prevents them from being able to go along with the “transgender” ideology and policies. If this moves forward, and I hope it doesn't, there have to be exceptions, as this entire policy is made for the exceptions to the biological understanding we have had since the dawn of man. Anything less is hypocritical.
Also, it's important to note that I do not want any kids to be bullied or to be in emotional pain. I can't think of a single person growing up that wasn't bullied at one time or another by someone or made to feel lesser- the popular kids for being popular, the smart kids for being nerds, short kids for being short, red-haired kids for being red-haired, less than athletic for being less than athletic, poor kids for being poor, overweight kids for...well you get the myriad of scenarios that could be played out. I saw literally all of these scenarios and more. So we need something more than this far from fair policy that only covers only a sliver of what can happen in our schools, aimed only for a few. I think that's where Jesus's restorative love comes in. If only we in our own brokenness could figure out how to apply it like He lived it. That would be transformative!
Thank you for your consideration.
Please see the following excerpts from the policy that prompted my above response:
“School divisions will need to consider the health and safety of the student in situations where students may not want their parents to know about their transgender status … There are no regulations requiring school staff to notify a parent or guardian of a student’s request to affirm their gender identity...” (Recommended Standard, p.12)
“Gender Identity: A person’s internal sense of their own identity as a boy/man, girl/woman, something in between, or outside the male/female binary. Gender identity is an innate part of a person’s identity and can be the same or different from the sex assigned at birth.” (Definitions, p.6)
“Access to facilities such as restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to a student’s gender identity shall be available to all students.” (Draft Policy, p.18) “School staff should not confront students about their gender identity upon entry into the restroom.” (Recommended Standard, p.18)
“Any incident or complaint of discrimination, harassment, or bullying shall be given prompt attention, including investigating the incident and taking appropriate corrective action, by the school administrator. …The [School Division’s Designated Contact] shall be available to hear concerns from students or parents when complaints are not resolved at the school level.” (Draft Policy, p.10)
“In addition to adhering to all legal standards of confidentiality, school personnel shall treat information relating to a student’s transgender status as being particularly sensitive, shall not disclose it to other students and parents, and shall only disclose to other school personnel with a legitimate educational interest.” (Draft Policy, p.12)
“For transgender students, acts of verbal harassment may include the intentional and persistent use of names and pronouns not consistent with their identity.” (Recommended Standard, p.10)
“A school administrator may need to direct school staff to abide by the wishes of a student on their asserted name and pronoun. A school employee’s intentional and persistent refusal to respect a student’s asserted name and pronoun is considered discriminatory.” (Recommended Standard, p.12)
“Complaints alleging discrimination, harassment, or bullying based on a student’s actual or perceived transgender status shall be handled in the same manner as other discrimination or harassment complaints.” (Draft Policy, p.10)
“Schools shall allow students to assert a name and gender pronouns that reflect their gender identity without any substantiating evidence.” (Draft Policy, p.13)