A Virginia county school board declined to adopt policies provided and required by the state regarding the treatment of transgender students Thursday.
The Augusta County School Board called a special meeting to decide whether it would agree to amend its nondiscrimination policies to reflect a set of policies the Virginia Department of Education provided outlining how schools should refer to and accommodate transgender students. State law requires districts to administer policies that reflect its model.
The state’s model policies, whose stated aims are to “address common issues regarding transgender students” and “ensure that all students, including transgender students, have safe, supportive, and inclusive school environments,” provide that schools should eliminate dress code provisions requiring gender-specific attire and not use transgender students’ biological pronouns.
A majority of the Thursday meeting’s approximately 500 attendees objected to the policy changes and wore red clothing to demonstrate solidarity against them.
“I believe parents want to have your backs if you stand up and vote no to the liberal agenda,” attendee Beth Jenkins told the board, according to WVIR. “They do not trust the government. They want to send their children to public school, but they will not be told how to raise their children.”
No children should ever be bullied or harassed, said board member John Ocheltree, but he too objected to the state’s policies.
“Like many parents and grandparents of Augusta County, the Virginia Department of Education policy does not sit well with me,” he said.
A smaller group of parents advocated for the model policies during the meeting.
“The impact of every person in a school being supportive has the potential to change statistics and decrease the suicide rate of the LGBTQ+ youth from 40% to none,” said Elizabeth White, whose teenage child is transgender.
The board’s refusal could spur legal action as state law requires school boards to adopt policies “that are consistent with but may be more comprehensive than” its model.