Public comment has ended on the Youngkin administration’s draft transgender model policies, but they won’t go into effect until November 26 at the soonest, and may take longer, according to Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) Director of Communications Charles Pyle.
“The department’s timeline for finalizing the guidance and model policies document will be determined by the law (Section 2.2-4002.1.) and the amount of time required to review comments submitted by the public and make any edits to the document warranted by the comments. The guidance and model policies won’t become final until the review is complete and a final version is approved by the state superintendent,” Pyle told The Virginia Star.
The 2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools will replace the 2021 Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools. Law passed in 2020 requires school boards to enact policies consistent with the model policy guidance documents created by the VDOE, and the law includes requirements over what the policies contain.
During the 30-day comment period, the model policies received 71,298 public comments on Virginia’s regulatory review site, and although the board of education doesn’t have authority over the policies, the board has heard hours of comment about the policies in its recent meetings.
Under statute in the Code of Virginia, if a comment received in the 30-day period alleges that the guidelines contradict state law or regulation, an additional 30-day period must occur, and the agency must respond in writing to the commenter or with a published reply. Pyle said that’s the reason for the additional 30-day delay.
The new model policies draft includes a heavy emphasis on parent’s rights and requires parental involvement should minor students wish to change their name or pronouns. The previous policies, still in effect, advise that there is no regulation requiring staff to reveal a student’s gender preference to family.
The new draft earned praise from conservatives, including groups that had launched lawsuits against the state over the current model policies. But transgender advocates say the policies could expose students to bullying and harassment from unsupportive family and could negatively impact the students’ mental health.
At a press conference Thursday on the Virginia Capitol grounds, Virginia Education Association President Dr. James Fedderman warned the policies could also put teachers’ in a tough position.
“This would require staff to harm transgender and non-binary students by misgendering them, forcing them to use school facilities matching their birth sex, imposing second-class privacy rights, and creating school climates that increase bullying and harassment,” he said.
Afterwards, The Virginia Star asked Fedderman if the VEA planned any lawsuits in response to the new model policies.
“All options are on the table,” Fedderman said. “Strong advocacy, continue speaking truth to power, continue to be unapologetic, continue to rally the troops, continue to engage, continue to allow those students who feel disenfranchised to have their voices heard.”
Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. This article originally appeared in The Virginia Star. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of The Republican Standard. Republished with permission.