A Virginia Senate committee yesterday voted down a bill intending to undermine the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) model policies for transgender students, a move that Equality Virginia and partners applauded as they work during the General Assembly session to defend protections for LGBTQ Virginians.
The Senate Education and Health committee voted 8-4 to pass by Senate Bill 20 indefinitely, effectively defeating the bill. The bill would have eliminated the requirement for Virginia school boards to adopt guidelines consistent with the VDOE’s model policies, which were released last March. The General Assembly passed legislation in 2020 to create the model policies.
“This is an important victory for the health and safety of transgender students in Virginia,” said Narissa Rahaman, Equality Virginia’s Executive Director. “The policies use well-established best practices to help ensure Virginia schools are welcoming and affirming learning environments for all students, while helping districts stay in compliance with state and federal laws. We’ll be fighting to keep up this momentum as the General Assembly continues.”
Some key requirements in the policies include allowing transgender and nonbinary students to use their correct pronouns and chosen names, prevention and responses to bullying and harassment, and allowing all students the right to access restroom and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity.
“The model policies are lifesaving for trans students and families in Virginia, and we can’t roll them back,” said Shannon McKay, president of He She Ze and We, a nonprofit organization serving families with transgender loved ones through support, education, and advocacy. “Teachers and staff deserve to receive quality guidance and training that equips them with best practices so they feel confident supporting all of their students, including transgender kids. Transgender children, just as all children, deserve to be included and treated with dignity and respect every day, in every public school, in every town.”
Equality Virginia is also opposing House Bill 988, a similar bill to SB 20, that is currently moving through the House of Delegates.
“All students deserve the opportunity to learn in schools free from discrimination and harassment,” said Senator Ghazala Hashmi (D-Chesterfield). “These protections create safer and more supportive schools for every learner. I thank those of my colleagues in the Senate Health and Education committee who continue to uphold the important policies created by the VDOE.”
The Senate Education and Health committee also voted 9-4 to table Senate Bill 766, which aimed to prevent transgender student athletes from competing on teams that align with their gender identity.
“Senate Bill 766 was a solution in search of a problem and would’ve created stigma for transgender youth athletes,” added Rahaman. “The Virginia High School League already has policies that protect t
ransgender youth and ensure a level playing field for all students. Every kid deserves a chance to play sports, and that includes transgender kids.”
For more information about Equality Virginia, visit https://equalityvirginia.org.