When we think about what we want for our children in schools, we think about the joy of learning and exploration, building friendships that could last a lifetime, and the fun of extracurricular activities. Healthy relationships start with our kids and young people being who they are and finding human connection.
Unfortunately, the Virginia Department of Education’s proposed 2022 model policies for the treatment of transgender students in Virginia’s public schools do not support healthy identity development or reflect any of the values above. These model policies replace prior guidance that protected the rights of students to access facilities and use pronouns that affirm their gender identities with policies that disregard the gender identities of students and deny them use of lockers rooms, bathrooms, and other facilities that align with their gender identities. Trans and non-binary students will be left unprotected, as the policy will allow individuals to deadname and misgender students, even after written parental consent.
These policies claim to defend and protect the “privacy, dignity, and respect for all students and parents.” Yet, they actually deny students and families the right for their children to access safe and supportive learning environments and expose students to a higher risk of experiencing peer victimization, sexual assault, and suicidal ideation.
Sexual and intimate partner violence is linked to other forms of harm. Supporting equality and respect for all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, is integral to creating a Virginia free from sexual and domestic violence. We have submitted public comment opposing the proposed model policies (see below). We invite you to join us in supporting a Virginia free from harm for all its students by submitting your own comment. Public comment for the model policies is open through Oct. 26, 2022 at 11:59 PM. Here are some talking points and a sample script you can use.
- Submit a public comment directly to the Virginia Department of Education through Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
- Submit a public comment through Equality Virginia’s action page.
- ACLU of Virginia’s Action Hub to Support Trans and Nonbinary Youth
Action Alliance’s Public Comment
The Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance (Action Alliance) is a statewide advocacy and membership organization serving as Virginia’s leading voice on sexual and domestic violence for more than 40 years. As advocates invested in building healthy futures for all Virginians, we respectfully submit comment in opposition to the proposed 2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools (the “2022 Model Policies”). These policies are not only in direct violation of state and federal law, but they also deny the rights of students, parents, and school personnel to recognize the inherent dignity and worth of every child.
All children have the right to learn in a safe and supportive environment that respects their humanity and upholds their dignity. However, the 2022 Model Policies send an incredibly dangerous message that some students do not belong, and in fact should not exist.
Learning who you are is an important part of growing up, and every child deserves to have support and guidance as they learn about themselves, their family and friends, and their place in the world. Studies have consistently shown that policies like these result in more frequent and escalating harassment, discrimination, and physical violence toward trans and nonbinary students. These policies also lead to significantly higher rates of depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts relative to cisgender students. The consistent misgendering of a student has a profoundly negative impact on their ability to learn in the classroom.
Contrary to what is recommended in the proposed 2022 Model Policies, consistent use of a student’s affirmed name can significantly reduce suicidal behavior and suicidal ideation. This simple act has the power to literally save a child’s life.
Furthermore, denying trans and nonbinary students from using facilities that match their gender identity increases the prevalence of sexual assault victimization. The evidence is clear – students will experience higher rates of sexual assault, peer victimization, and suicide if policies like these are adopted in Virginia.
We recognize that sexual and domestic violence is linked to other forms of harm and that supporting equality and respect for ALL people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, is integral to creating a Virginia free from sexual and domestic violence.
In conclusion, the 2022 Model Policies will significantly and irreparably harm Virginia students and families. As sexual and domestic violence advocates who wish to see all children in Virginia fully thrive, we strongly oppose the adoption of these dangerous policies.
 Va. Code § 22.1-23.3.; Grimm v. Gloucester Cnty. Sch. Bd., 972 F.3d 586(4th Cir. 2020), as amended (Aug. 28, 2020), cert. denied, 141 S. Ct. 2878, 210 L. Ed. 2d 977 (2021)
 National Institute of Health, Differences in Suicide Risk Among Subgroups of Sexual and Gender Minority College Students (2020), https://www.nimh.nih.gov/news/research-highlights/2020/difference-in-suicide-risk-among-subgroups-of-sexual-and-gender-minority-college-students.
 Journal of Adolescent Health, Chosen Name use is linked to reduced depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, and suicidal behavior among transgender youth (2018) 6 (4): P503-505. https://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(18)30085-5/fulltextRead more news