Virginia has moved to restrict the rights of trans students in its public schools
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin's administration has proposed new policies for the state's schools regarding how they treat transgender students, including restricting which bathrooms they can use and which pronouns they may go by.
The Virginia Department of Education released its 2022 Model Policies online Friday, effectively rolling back the work of Youngkin's predecessor, Democrat Ralph Northam. The new rules will effected the more than 1 million children enrolled in the state's public school system.
The revamped rules explicitly state that students must only use bathrooms and locker rooms associated with the sex assigned to them at birth. If a student wants to participate in a sport or other extracurricular activities, they must, again, only participate in teams that align with the sex assigned at birth.
Further, the legal name and sex of a student can't be changed "even upon 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 paperwork if they feel doing so "would violate their constitutionally protected rights."
Virginia now joins a growing number of state legislatures across the U.S. that have adopted new restrictions on gay and transgender students. Like Virginia, these policies often limit conversations about sexuality and gender identity in schools.
There have been more than 200 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced at the state level this year alone, according to the LGBTQ rights group, Freedom for All Americans. Some go as far as to restrict access to gender-affirming medical care.
The Virginia Department of Education says the basis for these new rules is to support "the rights of parents" to determine their child's exposure to LGBTQ issues.
The department says that by adopting these new standards, Virginia "reaffirms the rights of parents to determine how their children will be raised and educated. Empowering parents is not only a fundamental right, but it is essential to improving outcomes for all children in Virginia."
The agency said the policies adopted under Northam's leadership "promoted a specific viewpoint aimed at achieving cultural and social transformation in schools."
Democrats and advocacy groups have swiftly condemned the proposals from the state's Republican governor.
Virginia Delegate Danica Roem, a Democrat representing Prince William County, called out Youngkin for violating the state's human rights law.
"[Youngkin's] action should be contested in court under the Virginia Human Rights Act," she tweeted this weekend.
The public can still comment on the draft model policies later this month on the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall website.
Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.