Gov. Glenn Youngkin is defending his draft education policies that make Virginian parents the primary decision-makers for their kids, especially regarding gender issues.
The governor’s proposed “2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools” is partly a response to recent conflict over such issues as transgender sports participation, bathroom use, and parental access to information about and authority over gender transitions.
The new policies emphasize parental rights, which are even baked into the definitions. For example, “transgender student” is defined as “a public school student whose parent has requested in writing, due to their child’s persistent and sincere belief that his or her gender differs with his or her sex, that their child be so identified while at school.”
The document also gives clarity to the relationship between parents and Virginia’s public schools. Parents are recognized as the primary decision-makers for their children, and schools should “defer” to parents to make the best decisions for their children. Schools are also encouraged to partner with parents.
While the draft policies are currently in a 30-day public comment period, students in a few schools staged walkouts to protest.
“Parents should be a part of their children’s lives, and it’s apparent through the public protests and on-camera interviews that those objecting to the guidance already have their parents as part of that conversation,” said a Youngkin spokeswoman, in response to the walkouts. “While students exercise their free speech today, we’d note that these policies state that students should be treated with compassion and schools should be free from bullying and harassment.”
Youngkin defended the policies in an interview with Fox & Friends on Wednesday.
“We first want to love every kid,” Youngkin said. “And we want to make sure we’re protecting their dignity, and their privacy, and their safety. And the difference in what our policies are really focused on is indeed bringing parents fully in.”
According to the policies, parents must authorize a change in a student’s name, preferred pronoun, or bathroom accommodations. The document also states that sports separated by sex are separated by biological sex.
“Biological boys shouldn’t be playing sports with biological girls,” Youngkin said in the interview. “It’s just not fair.”
Youngkin notes that the previous policies “aimed at achieving cultural and social transformation in schools” and “disregarded the rights of parents.”
“The children don’t belong to the state,” Youngkin said. “They belong to families.”