In total, 552,065 Virginia K-12 students attend school in divisions that have fully adopted the VDOE model policy for transgender students
RICHMOND, VA – Today Equality Virginia, the Commonwealth’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) equality, launched a school board policy & meeting tracker to provide parents, advocates and students information on local school board meetings, potential agenda items and opportunity for public comment, and whether the school district has adopted the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools.
“Almost half of Virginia’s K-12 students attend schools in divisions that have fully adopted VDOE’s model policies for the treatment of transgender students,” said Narissa S. Rahaman, Executive Director of Equality Virginia. “These policies, developed in accordance with evidence-based best practices, give teachers and administrators critical tools to create safe, inclusive and learning environments for all students. School boards in every corner of our Commonwealth have a unique and urgent opportunity to protect transgender students by adopting the model policies.”
In 2021, the VDOE released model policies regarding the treatment of transgender and non-binary students in Virginia public schools. The model policies address common issues regarding transgender students in accordance with evidence-based best practices and include information, guidance, procedures, and standards relating to: compliance with applicable nondiscrimination laws; maintenance of a safe and supportive learning environment free from discrimination and harassment for all students; prevention of and response to bullying and harassment; maintenance of student records; identification of students; protection of student privacy and the confidentiality of sensitive information; enforcement of sex-based dress codes; and student participation in sex-specific school activities, events, and use of school facilities. All local school boards were required to adopt the policy as a baseline by the start of the 2021-2022 school year.
In total, 552,065 Virginia K-12 students attend school in divisions that have fully adopted the VDOE policy and 699,905 students attend school in divisions that have not adopted sufficient policies. Out of Virginia’s 133 school districts, 13 school boards have fully adopted VDOE’s model policies, eight have partially adopted the model policies, 90 have opted to follow guidance put forward by the Virginia School Boards Association that contends existing policies fulfill the law’s requirements, nine school districts have rejected the VDOE policies, and four didn’t consider any policy, claiming their current policies are sufficient.
Equality Virginia’s tracker also provides dates, times and locations of monthly school board meetings, how parents, advocates and allies can sign-up for public comment, links to meeting agendas, and will highlight policies or resolutions school boards are introducing that could impact LGBTQ+ students. The tracker has additional details such as school board member contact information, superintendent’s name, and whether or not the school board is elected or appointed.
“Over the last 18 months, thousands of students, parents, educators, and allied community members have been showing up to school board meetings and giving public comment in support of transgender and nonbinary students and of policies that would protect them,” said Kyleigh Hynes, Safe Schools Coordinator of Equality Virginia. “So much of this work has been organized by folks on the ground, and we want them to feel as empowered and prepared as possible as they continue to advocate at these meetings. The purpose of our tracker is to provide all of the information someone might need in order to show up to a school board meeting or contact their board member, thereby helping to eliminate barriers to participation in local advocacy work across the Commonwealth.”
According to GLSEN’s 2019 National School Climate Survey, Virginia schools were not safe for most LGBTQ+ secondary school students. In addition, many LGBTQ+ students in Virginia did not have access to important school resources and were not protected by supportive and inclusive school policies. School-based supports such as supportive and inclusive school policies, school personnel who are supportive of LGBTQ+ students, GSAs, and LGBTQ+-inclusive curriculum resources can positively affect school climate for LGBTQ+ students. Findings from GLSEN’s 2019 National School Climate Survey demonstrate that students attending schools with these resources and supports report more positive school experiences, including lower victimization and absenteeism and higher academic achievement.
Equality Virginia is a 501(c)(3) organization working to build a fully inclusive Commonwealth by educating, empowering, and mobilizing Virginians to ensure all LGBTQ+ people are free to live, love, learn, and work.