Transgender school battles go local in Virginia
Judge’s dismissal likely to spark a county-by-county fight
A dispute over transgender guidelines for Virginia school boards is likely to rip through local districts, after a Lynchburg judge last week dismissed a lawsuit against the state.
The Family Foundation of Virginia in March challenged the state board of education’s process in adopting the guidelines, arguing it failed to address the many critical public comments. Critics expressed free speech and religious liberty concerns about teachers being forced to use preferred pronouns and schools opening restrooms and locker facilities to students based on gender identity.
In last week’s ruling, Circuit Judge J. Frederick Watson rejected the lawsuit as premature: “Because the model policies are directed only to school boards, they cannot affect or aggrieve anyone other than the school boards.”
But the ruling has a silver lining, said The Family Foundation’s Victoria Cobb. The judge construed the guidelines as not mandatory. And during a July 21 hearing, Assistant Attorney General Melissa Charnes said there was no punishment mechanism for school boards that rejected the guidelines, so they didn’t have to worry about losing state funding.
Several of Virginia’s school districts have already rejected the guidelines, Cobb said. Some have adopted the model policies, but most have yet to decide.
“Typically, summer is the slowest time you can find for us, but this year it’s the furthest thing from slow,” said Cobb. She anticipates multiple lawsuits as some school boards adopt the model policies.
Proposed transgender policies came to a head earlier this year in Virginia’s Loudoun County, where elementary physical education teacher Tanner Cross was suspended after criticizing such rules at a school board meeting. A state judge ordered Cross reinstated, but the school board is appealing the ruling.
Local parents such as Augusta County’s Beth Jenkins will drive the county-by-county opposition to state mandates. “I believe parents want to have your backs if you stand up and vote no to the liberal agenda,” Jenkins told the county school board, according to WVIR. “They do not trust the government. They want to send their children to public school, but they will not be told how to raise their children.”