(The Daily Signal) – A Northern Virginia school district just outside of Washington, D.C., appears to be in flagrant violation of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s model policies on transgender issues, potentially opening the district up for parents to file lawsuits.
Fairfax County Public Schools published a document and an online survey outlining “Student Rights & Responsibilities” earlier this month. The document lists specific “rights” that appear to contradict Youngkin’s model policy, though the district claims its policies “are consistent with federal and state anti-discrimination laws as required by the new model policies.” The parental rights group Parents Defending Education first highlighted the document.
According to the document, students have “the right to access restroom and locker room facilities and other non-stigmatizing accommodations that are consistent with the student’s gender identity, faith, and for any other reasons as identified in Regulation 2603.” They also have “the right to non-disclosure of gender identity and/or sexual orientation,” and “the right to be called by chosen names and pronouns.”
The Department of Education’s Model Policies on Ensuring Privacy, Dignity, and Respect For All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools, finalized in July, put parents in the driver’s seat on issues of gender identity.
The policies state that “schools shall defer to parents to make the best decisions with respect to their children” on issues such as “what names, nicknames, and/or pronouns, if any, shall be used for their child by teachers and school staff while their child is at school, whether their child engages in any counseling or social transition at school that encourages a gender that differs from their child’s sex,” and “whether their child expresses a gender that differs with their child’s sex while at school.”
Youngkin’s policies also state that “school shall keep parents informed about their children’s well-being.”
When it comes to restroom and locker room facilities, the Youngkin policies state that “single-user bathrooms and facilities should be made available” for transgender students. Where “state or federal law requires schools to permit transgender students to share otherwise sex-segregated facilities (such as bathrooms or locker rooms) with students of the opposite sex, parents should be given the right to opt their child out of using such facilities, and the child should be given access to alternative facilities that promote the child’s privacy and safety. Eligible students should be given the same right to opt out.”
The Fairfax County document does not mention any single-user options or any right to opt out of using bathrooms or changing rooms where transgender students may be present. The document also mentions as examples of “discriminatory harassment” two examples of verbal disagreement with transgender identity: “deadnaming” and “misgendering,” which involve referring to a person by his or her given name, as opposed to a new name, and referring to a person by the pronouns associated with his or her biological sex, rather than his or her stated gender identity.
The school system also published a portal encouraging students and parents to review the “Student Rights & Responsibilities.” The portal includes a video geared toward elementary school students stating the “right” to personal pronouns and restrooms and locker rooms according to gender identity.
“It is a major red flag when a school district shows students a video about their ‘rights and responsibilities’ regarding gender that completely contradicts the state’s model policy and fails to include information about parental notification requirements,” Erika Sanzi, director of outreach at Parents Defending Education, told The Daily Signal. “Telling students they have a right to access restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity or for any other reason is not only absurd but dangerous. Based on this wording, a fetish is an accepted justification.”
When reached for comment, Fairfax County Public Schools directed The Daily Signal to an Aug. 15 email from Michelle Reid, the district superintendent.
“We have concluded our detailed legal review and determined that our current Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) policies are consistent with federal and state anti-discrimination laws as required by the new model policies,” Reid wrote.
“We believe that supporting our students and working with parents and caregivers are not mutually exclusive; we already do both and will continue to do so,” she added. “We know that students can only learn effectively when they feel safe and supported. “
She cited three sections of Fairfax County Public Schools Regulation 2603 and federal law, stating that students “will continue to be addressed by their chosen names and pronouns,” “will continue to be provided with access to facilities, activities, and/or trips consistent with their gender identity,” and “will continue to have their privacy respected regarding gender expansive or transgender status, legal name, or sex assigned at birth.”
President Joe Biden has directed his Department of Education to adopt policies reinterpreting laws such as Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
On Thursday, Virginia’s Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares issued an official opinion confirming that Youngkin’s model policies comply with federal and state nondiscrimination laws.
“This official attorney general opinion simply confirms what the overwhelming number of Virginians already know; parents have a fundamental right to the care, upbringing, and education of their children,” Miyares said. “Parents, not government, are in the best position to work with their children on important life decisions, and no parent signs up to co-parent with the government.”
“The attorney general’s opinion puts school boards on notice of their legal obligation to adopt policies consistent with the governor’s model policies,” Victoria LaCivita, Miyares’ director of communications, told The Daily Signal in a statement Tuesday. “If a school board voted not to adopt policies consistent with the model policies, parents can sue under current state law.”
“Virginia parents have rights—and they can and should go to court if those rights are violated,” LaCivita added. “Our office will be monitoring all litigation and will be prepared to participate if appropriate.”