New Virginia DOE transgender guidelines affirm parental rights

(The Center Square) – The Virginia Department of Education updated its guidelines to shift the control of transgender issues back to parents, which has yielded mixed reactions from interest groups, lawmakers and the public.

Under the new guidelines, public schools cannot offer gender affirming counseling to a student who identifies as transgender unless they first notify the student’s parents and allow them to object. The old guidelines, alternatively, did not require any parental notification and instead encouraged schools to direct students to certain resources if their parents did not approve.

The new rules for school boards affirms that parents have a right to make decisions about how to raise their children consistent with their customs, faith and family culture. The rules state that parents have a right to nurture values and beliefs for their own children and that schools shall defer to parents.

Fight for Schools, which is a Loudoun County activist group that supports more parental rights in public education, spoke in support of the new guidelines.

“The Virginia Department of Education’s new model policy restores parental rights, protects the First Amendment rights of teachers and students, while also providing all students the right to attend school in an environment free from discrimination, harassment, or bullying,” Fight for Schools Chairman Ian Prior said in a statement.

“To the school boards in Virginia, such as the one in Loudoun County, you spent last year telling parents that they had to pass radical anti-parent, transgender policies to match the VDOE’s model policy, now you will have to revise those policies based on the law and your own words,” Prior continued. “So get to work.”

Virginia Senate Democrats released a statement from its leadership criticizing the new rules.

“These changes released by Governor Youngkin on Friday will put our vulnerable transgender and nonbinary students at further risk for bullying and harassment,” the statement read. “Despite Governor Youngkin’s political gamesmanship in his quest to compete with the cruel policies of Ron DeSantis and to divert attention from the issues at hand around abortion, we will continue to work collaboratively with our families and schools to assure that all students are safe in their schools.”

School boards will be required to adjust their policies to conform with the new guidelines. Some school districts have announced they are reviewing the new rules.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin made parental rights in education one of his biggest issues during his gubernatorial campaign in 2021. He has continued to hold rallies in support of parental rights in the Virginia education system.