Virginia school board drops proposed ban on gender ‘cross dressing’


SUFFOLK, Va. — The Suffolk, Va. school board has abandoned a plan that would have prohibited gender-cross dressing after the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia threatened to file a lawsuit if the school district implemented the new policy.

In its original form, the policy — proposed by Superintendent Deran Whitney — would have barred students from wearing clothing “not in keeping with a student’s gender” and that “causes a disruption and/or distracts others from the education process or poses a health or safety concern.”

Reuters reported that new wording released ahead of an expected school board vote on Thursday would drop the reference to a student’s gender, leaving the remainder of the policy in tact.

Board Chairman Michael J. Debranski told Reuters he will vote for the new wording, which he said leaves up to principals what students can and cannot wear and eliminates any discrimination of freedom of speech or expression.

“It doesn’t matter what the person wears, it’s a matter of (whether) whatever it is, if it’s not clothes if it’s an item of jewellery, is disruptive, and that is a judgment call by the principal,” Debranski said.

“If it’s a disruption in the class, then it would be brought to his attention. Other than that, a person would not be affected by it just because they are a cross dresser.”

The board opted to pursue the ban after teachers at one of the district’s three high schools said some male students were dressing like girls, prompting complaints from other students, a district spokeswoman said in February.

“By abandoning the original policy, the school has properly recognized that students cannot be disciplined for failing to conform to gender stereotypes,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis, in a statement.

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