Under the new law, Virginia’s Department of Education has until the end of 2020 to create a policy that establishes a baseline for the way transgender students in the Commonwealth’s public school districts must be treated.
From Gavin Grimm’s years of legal struggles to the Stafford County student left alone in a gym during a lockdown drill, transgender students in Virginia have contended with a great deal of confusion, uncertainty, and buck-passing while trying to exist within the Commonwealth’s public school system over the past several years. However, that should all change in coming years, and it starts with a bill signed into law last week by Governor Ralph Northam, one that requires Virginia’s Department of Education to, by the end of 2020, create a statewide policy for the treatment of transgender students.
“In Virginia, we fully expect our schools to treat all students with the dignity and respect they deserve,” Northam said in a statement. “This bill represents an important step towards making Virginia more welcoming and inclusive.”
The bill, which was introduced by 53rd District Delegate Marcus Simon in the House and by 33rd District Senator Jennifer Boysko in the state Senate, requires the Department of Education to create a model policy for transgender students to be released to all public school districts in the state. The policies those individual school districts adopt must be “consistent with, but may be more comprehensive than, the model policies developed by the Department of Education.”
“It is past time we put in place comprehensive policies to protect Virginia’s transgender students,” Simon said. “This bill will ensure the safety and dignity of all students in Virginia, regardless of how they identify or where they live.”
The need for such a policy is obvious to anyone who has been following the issue of transgender student rights in Virginia. Gavin Grimm’s years of legal action, culminating in a federal judge ruling last year that Grimm suffered from discrimination when school authorities wouldn’t let him use the boys’ bathroom at his school, is not the only situation in which the issues Virginia’s transgender students face were illuminated: a former West Point teacher is currently suing the West Point School Board for firing him after he refused orders to use male pronouns when referring to a transgender student.
The policy should be available to Virginia’s school districts by December 31, 2020.
Top Photo By Varmin, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia