‘A Case By Case Basis’

by | Sep 1, 2022 | QUEER RVA

Hoping to use the bathroom? If you’re a transgender student in Hanover County, you’ll need the School Board’s specific approval. That’s the result of a vote held by Hanover County’s School Board on Tuesday night, in which the school board voted 5-2 in favor of a policy requiring any transgender Hanover County student who wants to use the correct bathroom or locker room for their gender to apply to the School Board for approval first.

“If a student who identifies as transgender requests access to restrooms, locker rooms or changing facilities that align with their gender identity but not their sex, the following process will be utilized to evaluate each request on a case-by-case basis,” the policy states. And for the record, the imprecise use of the term “sex” here introduces quite a bit of (likely unintended) ambiguity here, but that’s another article.

To get back to what the policy says, here’s what it requires:

  • a statement from the student, not only specifying their gender identity but asserting that they have “consistently, persistently, and insistently” expressed that identity (presumably to allow the School Board’s dismissal of any petition from a student who hasn’t been out for whatever arbitrary length of time the School Board decides to require)
  • Signed statement from a doctor, therapist, or licensed counselor stating that the student has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria
  • Statement from the student’s parent or guardian
  • The student’s disciplinary and criminal records (yes, really)
  • Information related to the privacy and safety of other students (your guess is as good as ours as to what this could actually constitute)
  • Any other relevant information (again, this could be anything at all)

The school’s principal would collect all of this information, provide a written summary of the request and supporting documents, and deliver it all to the school board, who would have “final authority to approve or decline the request.”

While it’s not known how likely the Hanover County School Board will be to approve or deny any specific student’s request, the extensive requirements seem designed primarily as a way to frustrate the efforts of those seeking recognition. As LGBTQ activist Erin Reed said on twitter, “This is a terrible policy that will harm trans youth and force many back into the closet, while publicly outing those who DO have parental support.”

Other advocates and elected officials also expressed dismay, and offered support and solidarity to transgender youth caught in the middle of this situation. The ACLU of Virginia tweeted: “DISAPPOINTING: The Hanover County School Board voted 5-2 to adopt its bathroom/locker room policy that would make trans and non-binary students jump through hoops simply to exist in schools. To trans and nonbinary students in Hanover: You are LOVED. We are here for you.” Equality Virginia tweeted, “Transgender and non-binary students in Hanover County deserve better, and we won’t stop fighting for you.”

Meanwhile, Delegate Danica Roem made the important point that this policy probably won’t even hold up in court. “No other group of students who have done nothing wrong whatsoever have to have a criminal background check to pee,” she tweeted. “This policy is inherently discrimination on account of sex and it’s only a matter of time before the courts reassert that as they did in Grimm v. GCSB.”

Grimm v. GCSB was the case Gavin Grimm filed against the Gloucester County School Board, which didn’t come to a full resolution until he had already graduated from high school and, for understandable reasons, moved far away from Gloucester County. But in June of 2021, the Supreme Court chose to allow the rulings Grimm’s case had received in district and circuit court to stand. Those rulings stated that the Gloucester County School Board had violated Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by prohibiting Grimm from using the same restrooms as other boys that attended Gloucester County schools at the same time.

While no specific legal action against the Hanover County School Board and its new policy has yet been filed, it wouldn’t be surprising if such actions were already in the works. Meanwhile, for trans youth currently attending Hanover County Public Schools, the process to be treated as equal to any other member of the student body just got a lot more difficult.

Photo via Hanover County Schools/Twitter

Marilyn Drew Necci

Marilyn Drew Necci

Former GayRVA editor-in-chief, RVA Magazine editor for print and web. Anxiety expert, proud trans woman, happily married.

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