Almost 100 high schools in Virginia protest as
comment period opens for new policies.
On Sept. 17, Gov. Glenn Youngkin released a document that began major changes in the state policies regarding transgender students in Va. schools. The main claim, according to Youngkin, was that “parental rights” were in need of protection.
The document balances the needs of “students with distinctive needs, including any student with a persistent and sincere belief that his or her gender differs from his or her sex,” while acknowledging the “fundamental rights” of parents. This means that students must receive parental consent to change any names, nicknames or pronouns. Additionally, students must use restrooms and participate in sports on the basis of their sex assigned by the state.
The justification for the changes lies within the First Amendment, as many Virginians reject “the ideological belief that gender is a matter of personal choice or subjective experience, not sex,” the document says. The document reverses the previous 2020 policy decision under the lead of Gov. Ralph Northam, which was aimed at protecting the students’ right to privacy.
A 30-day comment period opened on Sept. 26, and the decision will go into effect at the end of that period. Comments can be submitted at townhall.virginia.gov.
SGA President Eddie McDonald commented that “Over half of transgender youth have attempted suicide at least once, with close to 90% reporting suicidal ideation,” making it a pressing issue for more than just high school students.
“By ignoring the science, the Virginia Department of Education’s 2022 Model Policies will undoubtedly result in the otherwise preventable deaths of transgender youth in our state; their blood will be on Governor Youngkins hands,” McDonald said.
According to McDonald, college students “have the power to advocate on behalf of our high-school peers as their rights are under attack by the Youngkin Administration” by voting in coming elections.
Additionally, McDonald said that advocating is important because “the state could theoretically force these same policies on higher-education institutions who receive state funding, such as VWU,” which receives the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant (VTAG).
Brynna Lister, the current president of Spectrum, said that “Many college students have younger siblings, and this could drastically affect their family lives.” According to Lister, “policies like this tend to travel in packs… so there could be future policies that do affect [VWU].”
Lister encourages students to speak their mind about the new policies. “On Friday, October 14, there will be a table in Batten Student Center for anyone to write letters during the public comment period for the policy,” Lister said.
For Lister, the issue is one that all should speak on, even at VWU. “I’ve heard several complaints about the school being hesitant to provide accommodations for trans students, as well as some teachers struggling to identify students with the right pronouns,” Lister said.
To combat this, Lister “would love to see less quiet support from those people higher up on the school food chain, and a little more active inclusivity.”
Wavy13 reported that schools across the state planned walkouts for Tuesday Sept. 27, including high schools in the VWU area. A spreadsheet linked to the article listed the times of walkouts at almost 100 schools, with notes as to whether or not press was allowed to be present.
“High schoolers can walk out of class every day until November 8, but only we have the power to vote out the politicians creating these policy changes,” McDonald said.
In regards to the students organizing walkouts, Lister said,“I would just like to congratulate them. Taking a stand on such an issue takes courage, especially if the students who walked out weren’t transgender themselves. It’s good to see that there’s that type of allied backing for the community.”
According to USA Today, school districts are also advocating against Youngkin’s policy changes, including Richmond, Arlington and Alexandria. In addition, President Joe Biden’s administration has shown support for the students who have been protesting.
“He believes transgender youth should be allowed to be able to go to school freely, to be able to express themselves freely, to be able to have the protections that they need to be who they are,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
By Rhian Tramontana