The administration of Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin has proposed new policies for schools in the state regarding how they treat transgender students, including limiting which bathrooms they can use and which pronouns they can use.
The Virginia Department of Education posted its 2022 model policies online Friday, reversing the work of Youngkin’s predecessor, Democrat Ralph Northam. The new rules will affect more than one million children enrolled in the state’s public school system.
The revised rules explicitly state that students should only use bathrooms and changing rooms associated with the gender they were assigned at birth. If a student wants to participate in sports or other extracurricular activities, they must, again, only participate on teams that match the gender assigned at birth.
Additionally, a student’s legal name and gender cannot be changed “even at the written instruction of a parent or eligible student” without an official legal document or court order. Teachers and other school officials can only refer to a student by their pronouns associated with their sex at birth. But they also don’t have to refer to a student’s preferred names, regardless of the paperwork, if they feel it would “violate their constitutionally protected rights.”
Virginia now joins a growing number of state legislatures across the United States that have passed new restrictions on gay and transgender students. Like Virginia, these policies often limit conversations about sexuality and gender identity in schools.
This year alone, more than 200 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced at the state level, according to LGBTQ rights group, Freedom for All Americans. Some go so far as to restrict access to gender-affirming medical care.
The Virginia Department of Education says the basis of these new rules is to support “parents’ rights” to determine their child’s exposure to LGBTQ issues.
The department says that by adopting these new standards, Virginia “reaffirms the right of parents to determine how their children will be raised and nurtured. Parental empowerment is not only a basic right, but it is essential to improving the outcomes of all children in Virginia.”
The agency said the policies enacted under Northam’s leadership “foster a specific viewpoint aimed at achieving cultural and social transformation in schools.”
Democrats and advocacy groups were quick to condemn the state’s Republican governor’s proposals.
Virginia Delegate Danica Roem, a Democrat representing Prince William County, called Youngkin for violation of state human rights law.
“[Youngkin’s] action should be challenged in court under the Virginia Human Rights Act,” she tweeted over the weekend.
The public can still comment on draft model policies later this month on the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall website.