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Thousands of Virginia students stage walkout to protest Youngkin admin.'s proposed trans guidelines

Virginia students participate in a walkout to protest
Virginia students participate in a walkout to protest |

Students at least 100 Virginia schools walked out of class Tuesday protesting a state government guidance directing schools not to allow trans-identified students to identify as the opposite biological sex without legal documents and to keep parents informed of changes to their child's gender identity. 

The Pride Liberation Project, which describes itself as a "nonprofit coalition of LGBTQIA+ students working to create safe, inclusive, and equitable schools," estimated Wednesday that "12,000+ students at 100 Virginia schools walked out in protest of the guidelines released by the Virginia Department of Education on Sept. 16. 

"We're not going away. We will continue to hold our leaders accountable until we build safe schools that let all thrive," the advocacy group vowed.

Video footage from one of the protests, which took place at Annandale High School in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Fairfax County, Virginia, reveals students chanting "trans rights are human rights." 

Under Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, the Virginia DOE announced the "2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia's Public Schools." The document defines "sex" as biological sex and creates a higher bar for students to meet if they wish to identify as a member of the opposite biological sex in school. 

The guidance does not become official until after the public has had the opportunity to comment on it. The comment period opened Monday and lasts through Oct. 26. 

The guidelines require school officials to address students by the name that appears on their official record or by a nickname that bears similarity to said name. School officials must also refer to students using pronouns that match the gender reflected on their records.  
Only when parents present the school with a "legal document, such as a birth certificate, state- or federal-issued identification, passport, or court order substantiating" a student's "change of legal name or sex" will the student's record change to reflect their new gender identity.

The document repeatedly acknowledges that "parents have the right to make decisions with respect to their children" and that "schools shall respect parents' beliefs and values."

A sample policy included in the document requires that "for any school program, event, or activity, including extracurricular activities that are separated by sex, the appropriate participation of students shall be determined by sex." 

The same policy applies to "overnight travel accommodations, locker rooms, and other intimate spaces."

Critics argue that the policy harms trans-identified students, but supporters laud it as necessary to ensure fairness, parental rights and student safety.

According to the Virginia Department of Education, nearly 400,000 students attend more than 300 public high schools in the state.

The new guidance reverses previous policies enacted in 2021 by the administration of Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, which required schools to let trans-identified students choose their own names and pronouns as well as the ability to access bathrooms and changing facilities that correspond with their gender identity.  

The Pride Liberation Project elaborated on its concerns with the draft guidelines in a statement issued the day after the Virginia Department of Education's announcement. The LGBT group contends that the previous policies enacted under Ralph Northam "were intended to protect Queer students against discrimination."

"These revised guidelines will only hurt students in a time when students are facing unparalleled mental health challenges and are a cruel attempt to politicize the existence of LGBTQIA+ students for political gain," the Pride Liberation Project asserted.

The Virginia Department of Education contends that the previous administration's policies, which faced pushback from some school districts, "promoted a specific viewpoint aimed at achieving cultural and social transformation in schools."

The Virginia Department of Education claims the previous administration's policies "disregarded the rights of parents and ignored other legal and constitutional principles that significantly impact how schools educate students, including transgender students."

The new guidance comes amid nationwide debate surrounding LGBT issues in schools, parental rights, the inclusion of trans-identified biological males in girls' sports and whether teachers should be forced to refer to students by their preferred names and pronouns. 

The school district in Loudoun County, Virginia, gained national attention last year after an elementary school physical education teacher was placed on leave because he spoke at a school board meeting in opposition to a proposed policy that would require teachers to refer to students by their preferred names and pronouns. A court later ordered his reinstatement. 

The Loudoun County policy has since been enacted and spurred a lawsuit from parents and teachers.  

A West Point High School teacher in King William County was punished in 2018 and later fired for refusing to refer to a trans-identified student by the preferred name and pronoun. 

The Youngkin administration's guidance stresses the importance of "constitutional protections that prohibit governmental entities from requiring individuals to adhere to or adopt a particular ideological belief."

"The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees religious freedom and prohibits the government from compelling speech that is contrary to an individual's personal or religious beliefs," the guidance states. 

In the past month, a judge sided against a group of parents in Montgomery County, Maryland, located on the border with Virginia. They sued the school district over a policy enabling school officials to conceal changes in a student's stated gender identity from parents until they determined "the level of support the student receives or anticipates receiving from home." 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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