The Russell County School Board (RCS), in the southwest corner of Virginia, voted unanimously to reject the Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools, handed down by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) in March, 2021. The policies were enacted after the state legislature mandated that the VDOE “develop and make available … model policies concerning the treatment of transgender students.”
The Family Foundation of Virginia (TFF), an ally of Focus on the Family, reported that “a standing room-only crowd of approximately 500 concerned citizens attended the board meeting – the majority waving Protect Every Kid signs.”
Protect Every Kid is a TFF “movement to stand behind parents and school board members battling for the physical safety, hearts and minds of their children.” The organization has a helpful document, “Top 5 Offensive Mandates in the DOE’s ‘Treatment of Transgender Students’ Policy.”
TFF says the state transgender mandates encourage schools to deliberately deceive parents about what their child is doing at school, undermining parental rights. The policy says, “For example, a plan may include addressing the student at school with their name and pronoun consistent with their gender identity while using the legal name and pronoun associated with the sex assigned at birth when communicating with parents or guardians.”
It’s clear that the state has completely bought into transgender ideology: Sex isn’t “assigned” at birth; it’s simply recognized that a child is biologically either male or female.
Schools are also told they don’t have to “notify a parent or guardian of a student’s request to affirm their gender identity.” Staff members can coach children how to “share the information with their family when they are ready to do so.” Disclosing a child’s gender identity – even to a parent – could be considered discrimination and harassment, threatening both parental rights and staff members’ careers.
The VDOE transgender guidelines open “the door to the state punishing parents as ‘abusers’ for simply expressing genuine, good-faith concerns about their young child prematurely embracing a transgender identity,” TFF explains.
The state standards suggest that teachers “consult with their school attorney” when “parents or guardians are not accepting of the student’s gender identity,” as if this were a form of “abuse or neglect.”
The policies put students at risk for physical privacy and safety, as schools are told they “should accept a student’s assertion of their gender identity without requiring any particular substantiating evidence, including diagnosis, treatment, or legal documents.” So a junior high boy, for example, who simply states he is a girl, can use girls restrooms, showers and locker rooms. All bathrooms are to be “gender-inclusive.”
The state mandates also violate religious freedom and free speech. Staff and students are considered to engage in “harassment” when they use names and pronouns not consistent with a student’s chosen “gender identity.” As TFF notes, “The policy mandate includes forced use of recently invented ‘gender neutral’ pronouns such as ‘ze/hir/hirs’ if that is what the student specifies.”
Students and staff could be penalized by the state for following their faith where it teaches that God created humanity male and female in His image and that we should not lie.
Finally, the policies politicize schools. Transgender ideology teaches “gender” is different from biological sex, gender is a “social construct” that can be assigned and taught, people can change “genders,” and there are a multitude of “genders.”
This is an ideology, a belief system that is not rooted in science and that is part of a political and cultural agenda. The guidelines state, “School divisions may take an inclusive approach by incorporating educational content that is transgender affirming into the general education curriculum, such as history, literature, and science.”
In accepting this ideology and pushing it on school children, the state is politicizing and indoctrinating them into a false worldview.
In addition to fighting this agenda at school board meetings, TFF is also part of a lawsuit challenging the Virginia model transgender policies, along with its Founding Freedoms Law Center (FFLC). The suit is also brought on behalf of Sarah Via, a mother with a fifth grader in public school.
FFLC challenged the mandated policies on the basis of “numerous violations of procedural deficiencies that occurred” while the VDOE was formulating them. The organization also says that “these Model Policies trample all over fundamental rights, including free speech, religious exercise, bodily privacy, due process, equal protection, and parental rights.”
The suit reminds parents, school districts and legislators that parents – not schools – have the primary right and responsibility “to establish a home and bring up children” and “to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control.” When legislators and state agencies create policies that violate those rights, parents have the duty and obligation to speak out against them.
Thankfully, in Russell County, parents, Christian and legal organizations, and the school board are doing just that.
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Photo from doe.virginia.gov