Student walkouts planned in protest of Youngkin transgender policy

Students at several Virginia high schools have planned walkouts today, Sept. 27, in opposition to new guidelines from the administration of Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) that would restrict the rights of transgender students.

The walkouts, organized by the Pride Liberation Project, a statewide LGBTQ youth advocacy group, are scheduled throughout the day on campuses across the state.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 group said in a statement.

The draft policy released Sept. 16 by the state education department would require transgender students to access school facilities and programs matching their “biological sex.” Parents would have to give approval for teachers and staff to refer to students by a different name or pronoun at school, and families would have to provide legal documentation to change a student’s name and gender on official school records.

Youngkin’s rules for trans students leave many teens fearful, despondent

The Pride Liberation Project is calling for the department to revoke its policy and for local school boards “to affirm their commitment to protect all students by rejecting these bigoted proposed guidelines,” its statement said.

The guidelines are set to take effect after a 30-day public comment period that began Monday. More than 12,000 comments had been submitted to the education department by Monday night.

Supporters lauded the guidelines for “giving rights back to parents” and ensuring “parents know what’s going on” in their students’ schools. Opponents criticized the policy for being “harmful” to transgender students and said the guidelines amount to “bullying.”

The public comment session will close Oct. 26. State department of education staff will review the comments and recommend any edits to the draft, department spokesman Charles Pyle said.

The draft guidelines will become official once approved by the state superintendent.

The guidelines will probably face legal challenges, experts have said. Already some opponents have said the policy violates the Virginia Human Rights Act, which protects individuals in public settings, including schools, from discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

Youngkin’s restriction on trans students’ rights is probably illegal, experts say

A Washington Post survey of all state school districts found that a few districts in northern Virginia appear prepared to challenge the policy; school leaders in many other parts of the state seem likely to implement the policy, and places like Culpeper County schools say their policies already align with these rules from the Youngkin administration.

The new policy reverses a state order enacted two years ago by former governor Ralph Northam (D). Northam’s policy mandated that transgender students be granted access to restrooms, locker room, changing facilities and school programs that matched their gender identity. It also required schools and teachers to accept and use students’ gender pronouns and identity.

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