RICHMOND, VA – Today, Equality Virginia, the Commonwealth’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) equality, released the following statement in response to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) decision to finalize its model policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students in Virginia’s Public Schools after an eight month delay. 

“Today, Governor Youngkin and the VDOE made a dangerous, politically motivated decision to ignore the thousands of Virginians who submitted public comments in opposition to his proposed model policies – policies which single out transgender and nonbinary youth in our schools,” said Narissa Rahaman, executive director of Equality Virginia. “Youngkin did all of this with no input from LGBTQ+ advocacy groups nor subject matter experts. Throughout the comment process, though, Virginians made it clear that LGBTQ+ youth deserve safety, respect and the opportunity to thrive. This comes on the heels of a scathing 18-month report released last week by JLARC that detailed how Virginia is underfunding its K-12 public schools at a lower rate than national and regional averages. Instead of addressing the very real issues we have ahead of us, Governor Youngkin’s response is to escalate a culture war and drop a policy that harms kids, removes resources for teachers and ignores the rights of parents in Virginia.

“As families begin to wrap up their summer breaks before heading back to school, parents and students should know that the Governor is playing politics with their lives by moving forward with a policy that does nothing to improve our schools,” continued Rahaman. “The Governor is showing what his priorities are through this policy: disregarding expert opinion, harming students and eroding trust between parents, educators and school personnel. All students in Virginia deserve an education that allows them to learn and grow free from harm; transgender and non-binary students must be afforded the equal opportunity to learn in a safe and affirming school environment. These new model policies do not provide our students with this opportunity and would instead create learning environments that are unsafe, hostile and dangerous. To the transgender and nonbinary students, their parents, and their teachers who are grappling with this disappointing news— Equality Virginia sees you and loves you. These policies are not yet in effect and we will do everything in our power to make sure your school district rejects them.”

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. All local school boards were required to adopt the policy as a baseline by the start of the 2021-2022 school year. 

In September 2022, the Youngkin administration and the Virginia Department of Education released a proposed policy for 2022 that reversed the 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. VDOE twice missed their own deadline to provide an update on the policy or respond to public comments challenging the legality.

In total, 552,065 Virginia K-12 students attend school in divisions that have fully adopted the 2021 VDOE policy and 699,905 students attend school in divisions that have not adopted sufficient policies. Out of Virginia’s 131 school districts, 13 school boards fully adopted the 2021 model policies, eight partially adopted the model policies, 90 opted to follow guidance put forward by the Virginia School Boards Association that contends existing policies fulfill the law’s requirements. Nine school districts rejected the 2021 VDOE policies, and four didn’t consider any policy, claiming their current policies are sufficient.


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. EV Advocates (EVA) is a 501(c)(4) organization that works with Equality Virginia (EV) to advance equal rights for LGBTQ Virginians through public policy and advocacy.