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Giving parents power


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Some school policies in Virginia are returning power to parents over gender ideology


MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 25th of October, 2022.

You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re glad you’ve joined us today! Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up on The World and Everything in It: transgender policies in school.

The time for public comment ends tomorrow for new guidelines on transgender students in Virginia schools. Last month, when the guidelines were released, some students used the opportunity to walk out of class in protest. WORLD’s Lauren Dunn has the story.

LAUREN DUNN, REPORTER: Kayla Parker is a junior at Jefferson Forest High School in Bedford, Va., a district of about 9,000 students. In late September, some students at her school participated in a walkout.

PARKER: Students missed fifth period for it. But the only thing was is that I think only about 30 people came to the walkout and it was in our silo field right out right outside of the school.

She says that only a few students from her class joined the walkout, though more students in a friend’s class participated.

PARKER: So many people came up to me, and they were like, You should go to it, it’s for a good cause. And it was definitely - it felt forced.

Parker has disagreed with some of her classmates on this issue before. Last year some students alienated Parker for her views, calling her transphobic. She took a few months off and homeschooled, in part because of the conflict with her classmates.

The walkout at Parker’s school was small, but schools across Virginia reported hundreds of students leaving class to participate. Some of them carried signs or chanted slogans.

AUDIO: [Student protest]

Gov. Glenn Youngkin released the model guidelines on transgender students after repealing an earlier set of rules that his predecessor proposed.

Victoria Cobb is the president of Family Foundation of Virginia. Here she talks about those previous guidelines.

COBB: They really endorsed the idea of deceiving parents. So if Johnny felt like he was Susie, within the school building, they said in order to respect Johnny, but they'd say, we were gonna refer to Johnny as Susie and treat him as Susie within the school setting. But to respect his parents, that's how they would word it, we will refer to Johnny as Johnny and and they will, you know, will treat him as a biological male with his parents.

The previous guidelines also required schools to allow students to use whichever restroom they chose, regardless of their biological sex.

In contrast, the new guidelines would require teachers to use students’ given names and the pronouns that correspond to their biological sex, unless a parent agreed in writing to another name or pronouns. Students would only use the restroom that corresponds with their biological sex. If a student who identifies as transgender wants to use a different restroom, schools may grant access to a single user restroom.

COBB: Governor Younkin has come in, there's a new board of education, that new board has, you know, the folks have put together a new set of guidelines that actually say no, the parent ought to be the driver, the parent ought to be the one that is in coordination with their child if their child is struggling over gender.

Technically, these model guidelines are exactly that – guidelines. But the Virginia legislature passed a law in 2020 that requires school districts to adopt policies that match or go beyond the state’s model policies. But then and now, schools don’t always follow suit.

In early October, the Richmond school district announced it would not follow the model guidelines. Other districts, like Fairfax County, issued statements in support of transgender students but haven’t officially said whether they will follow the state’s model.

COBB: The local school board has the authority over children and really shouldn't be getting required directives in great, great detail from the state…And so even though we wish there weren't cities and counties rejecting these guidelines, we do believe they have the authority to do that.

Student walkouts mostly occurred on one September Tuesday, and Cobb says even those demonstrations were smaller than their organizers had hoped. But the new policies clearly stirred up Virginians. While the previous set of policies garnered 9,000 public comments during its comment period, Gov. Youngkin’s raked in 60,000 as of last week.

Joel Thornton is the chief operating officer and litigation counsel for Child and Parental Rights Campaign.

THORNTON: What's significant about his policies is that this is one of the first state department's of education around the country that are really trying to approach this  from a neutral standpoint. In other words, they're working to protect the rights of all the students in the school, and not just concerned about the rights of the transgender students.

Thornton says that this state guidance can protect schools that want to protect students.

THORNTON: It gives the schools some knowledge of what the state views as the right direction for policies to go and gives them cover.

Kayla Parker returned to her school last December, and she says other students stopped accusing her of being transphobic. She says she’s really close with a few other students who also took a break from the school environment last year.

Parker knows that if her school adopts the proposed policies, some students at her school will be affected.

PARKER: There are definitely certain students that won't tell their parents because of the backlash that they would get from them. And they are very hush hush about it, but everybody at school knows that they are transgender.

Parker hopes that the new policies will push schools to help students who are confused about their gender.

PARKER: I think that a lot of the students are confused. And especially, I mean, being teenagers, you don't really know what you want.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Lauren Dunn.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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