Equality Virginia: New ACLU of Virginia Lawsuits Would Block Governor Youngkin's Anti-Trans Education Policies

RICHMOND, Va – Equality Virginia, the Commonwealth’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) equality, applauded two new lawsuits filed by the ACLU of Virginia that seeks to overturn the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) guidelines for 2023 Model Policies on Ensuring Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools – policies that directly undermine the treatment of transgender and nonbinary students in Virginia. The lawsuits were filed today on behalf of a student in York County and a student in Hanover County, both of whom have been harmed by the adoption and enforcement of the model policies, as introduced and implemented by the administration of Governor Glenn Youngkin. 

“It was clear since the day that he took office that Governor Youngkin and his Department of Education would target LGBTQ+ Virginians and single out transgender and nonbinary students for discrimination, and now that some school boards are implementing and enforcing their model policies for public schools, it’s even more clear that the harm is real,” said Narissa Rahaman, executive director of Equality Virginia. “Importantly, Youngkin’s model policies were overwhelmingly opposed by parents, teachers, administrators, community members and quite frankly, fly in the face of data or research. VDOE has ignored evidence-based best practice, pushed through harmful guidance without feedback from professionals, and is now seeing the results of this policy – unfair treatment of trans and nonbinary students. We applaud the ACLU of Virginia for taking on these harmful policies and for fighting for the health and well-being of students. We’re proud to work toward those goals, together.” 

Virginia statute requires VDOE to create model policies on the treatment of transgender students in K-12 schools that are “evidence-based” but VDOE’s model policies under the Youngkin administration ignored best practices and the opinions and guidance of education professionals, parents and students alike. When schools have proactive, affirming policies, LGBTQ+ students have better outcomes. In more restrictive environments, students often report higher levels of discrimination and mental illness and lowered attendance rates.

In 2021, the VDOE released model policies regarding the treatment of transgender and non-binary students in Virginia public schools. The model policies addressed 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. 

In July 2023, the Youngkin administration and the Virginia Department of Education finalized a policy that reversed the 2021 Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools. The policies, titled the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students in Virginia’s Public Schools – received no public input while being drafted and were not developed in accordance with evidence-based best practices – put transgender and non-binary students at risk for harm and discrimination. Over 70,000 public comments, a majority in opposition to the policies, were submitted during the 30-day public comment period. 

The lawsuits filed by ACLU of Virginia and counsel at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer call on York and Hanover County Circuit Courts to vacate VDOE’s 2023 model policies, the two jurisdictions in which the plaintiff students live. 



Equality Virginia(EV) is a 501(c)(3) organization that works with Equality Virginia (EV) to advance equal rights for LGBTQ Virginians through public policy and advocacy.