Where We’ve Been
Equality Virginia has been working closely alongside LGBTQ students and their families as well as local community organizations to cultivate inclusive schools for all LGBTQ youth.
In the absence of statewide legal protections before 2020, EV and local partners advocated school district-by-school district to build support for policies that protect LGBTQ students, teachers, and staff from discrimination in the locality’s public schools.
EV has consulted with local community organizations, school districts, and the Virginia Department of Education to share resources and provide trainings on creating inclusive learning environments for LGBTQ students, particularly for transgender and non-binary youth whose needs have been consistently unmet due to a lack of knowledge and familiarity by peers and school officials.
After years of advocacy by EV as well as local, state, and national partners, the General Assembly passed legislation (House Bill 145 and Senate Bill 161) to protect transgender and non-binary students’ access to an equal education. This legislation requires the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to draft Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools. School Boards then have until the start of the 2021-2022 school year to adopt policies consistent with, or even more comprehensive than, the VDOE model policy.
In addition, 2020 also saw the passage of the Virginia Values Act, a historic piece of civil rights legislation that protects LGBTQ Virginians from discrimination in employment, housing, and public spaces – including schools and educational institutions. This means that schools cannot discriminate against LGBTQ students, teachers, or staff and must provide an equal learning environment regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Thank you to the many organizations, advocates, youth, family members, and community leaders who made these historic wins for equality possible. These two pieces of legislation will ensure that schools can offer all students, including LGBTQ students, the ability to thrive and learn.
In anticipation of the work ahead, Equality Virginia, Side by Side, and many partner organizations collaborated on crafting a ‘platinum standard’ policy recommendations guide to inform the work of the VDOE and local school boards. GLSEN and the National Center for Transgender Equality have also published an updated model local policy on transgender and non-binary students that can help inform local policies.
EV worked with Side by Side to host a series of Town Hall events in Fall 2020 to educate Virginians about the new protections for trans and non-binary students, and how everyone can get involved to make these policies a reality in every school district in the Commonwealth. EV and our partner organizations will continue to share resources and information on these policies and how to advocate for them.
The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) released proposed model policies that were available for public comments from January 4, 2021 through February 3, 2021 with EV and partner organizations mobilizing thousands of Virginians to comment in support. In March 2021, VDOE finalized their guidance, which you can read to review the final Model Policies on the Treatment of Transgender Students. Now, all 133 school boards in Virginia are required by law to adopt policies consistent with, or even more comprehensive than, the ones proposed by the VDOE by the start of the 2021-2022 school year in August and September 2021.
Read our FAQ sheet to find out how to get involved in advocating for transgender and non-binary students with local school boards.
Advocating for Trans Students FAQ