On September 15, Equality Virginia, the Commonwealth’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) equality, launched a school board policy & meeting tracker to provide parents, advocates and students information on local school board meetings, potential agenda items and opportunity for public comment, and whether the school district has adopted the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools.
“Almost half of Virginia’s K-12 students attend schools in divisions that have fully adopted VDOE’s model policies for the treatment of transgender students,” said Narissa S. Rahaman, Executive Director of Equality Virginia. “These policies, developed in accordance with evidence-based best practices, give teachers and administrators critical tools to create safe, inclusive and learning environments for all students. School boards in every corner of our Commonwealth have a unique and urgent opportunity to protect transgender students by adopting the model policies.”
In 2021, the VDOE released model policies regarding the treatment of transgender and non-binary students in Virginia public schools. All local school boards were required to adopt the policy as a baseline by the start of the 2021-2022 school year.
In total, 552,065 Virginia K-12 students attend school in divisions that have fully adopted the VDOE policy and 699,905 students attend school in divisions that have not adopted sufficient policies. Out of Virginia’s 133 school districts, 13 school boards have fully adopted VDOE’s model policies, eight have partially adopted the model policies, 90 have opted to follow guidance put forward by the Virginia School Boards Association that contends existing policies fulfill the law’s requirements, nine school districts have rejected the VDOE policies, and four didn’t consider any policy, claiming their current policies are sufficient.
Equality Virginia’s tracker also provides dates, times and locations of monthly school board meetings, how parents, advocates and allies can sign-up for public comment, links to meeting agendas, and will highlight policies or resolutions school boards are introducing that could impact LGBTQ+ students. The tracker has additional details such as school board member contact information, superintendent’s name, and whether or not the school board is elected or appointed.
According to GLSEN’s 2019 National School Climate Survey, Virginia schools were not safe for most LGBTQ+ secondary school students. In addition, many LGBTQ+ students in Virginia did not have access to important school resources and were not protected by supportive and inclusive school policies. School-based supports such as supportive and inclusive school policies, school personnel who are supportive of LGBTQ+ students, GSAs, and LGBTQ+-inclusive curriculum resources can positively affect school climate for LGBTQ+ students. Findings from GLSEN’s 2019 National School Climate Survey demonstrate that students attending schools with these resources and supports report more positive school experiences, including lower victimization and absenteeism and higher academic achievement.