Judge Dismisses A Challenge Against The Virginia Department Of Education’s Model Policies For The Treatment Of Transgender Students

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Creator: Ted Eytan Copyright: This material is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution

On July 27, a Lynchburg judge dismissed a challenge against the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies for the treatment of transgender students. Following a hearing last week, Judge Fred Watson said the plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge the model policies.

“We celebrate this victory for transgender and nonbinary students throughout the Commonwealth,” said Kyleigh Hynes, Equality Virginia’s Safe Schools Coordinator. “And we also recognize that there is still more work to be done to ensure that all students have equal access to education in safe and affirming school environments.”

This past March, the General Assembly directed the Virginia Department of Education to create model policies inclusive of transgender and nonbinary students, mandating that Virginia school districts must adopt policies by the beginning of the 2021 school year that are at meet with or exceed VDOE’s model policies.

“These policies will help ensure that transgender and nonbinary youth in each school division are protected from discrimination and mistreatment, and are able to learn and succeed in the classroom this year and beyond. When gender diverse students are respected and supported, the entire school community thrives, said Hynes.”

Shortly after the model policies were announced, the Christian Action Network, a pro-family, pro-religious freedom. and pro-traditional values organization based in Forest, Virginia, alongside two families whose children attend Lynchburg public schools filed a motion in March with the Circuit Court of Lynchburg requesting the VDOE guidelines be postponed.

The lawsuit was enjoined by one filed in Richmond by the Family Foundation, Founding Freedoms Law Center, and a family whose children attend public schools in Hanover County.

The lawsuits charged that the model policies violated First Amendment rights of free speech and religion of its supports and others.
In a six-page opinion, Lynchburg Circuit Court Judge J. Frederick Watson questioned whether the groups that filed the lawsuit would actually be impacted by the state’s suggested policies, stating “because the model policies are directed only to school boards, they cannot affect or aggrieve anyone other than the school boards.” The groups in the lawsuit failed to demonstrate how the model policies “aggrieved” them, Watson wrote.
“This ruling is important progress and emphasizes the continued need to protect transgender and nonbinary youth in Virginia,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck. “These policies will create safer classrooms and will reduce bullying, discrimination, and harassment. It’s imperative school boards adopt these policies as soon as possible because the lives of transgender students are at risk.”
According to GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network), transgender students are more likely than all other students to have negative experiences at school. A 2017 report from the organization found that 75% of transgender youth reported feeling unsafe at school. A similar GLSEN study found that students were less likely to experience discrimination at schools with supportive transgender and nonbinary policies.
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