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Students rally against Virginia’s anti-trans education policies

A tortured high school student
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Students in Virginia rallied outside the state Department of Education’s headquarters Friday to protest anti-trans school policies enacted by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration earlier this year.

Around 40 people organized by the student-led Pride Liberation Project held signs and chanted “trans rights are human rights,” and “VDOE, let us be,” the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Recent high school graduate Ranger Balleisen described the effects of the new VDOE policies. “We’re going to be forced back into the closet in schools we thought were safe, we’re going to be forced off of our school sports teams, and forced out of the bathrooms we want to use,” he told the paper. “We will be bullied and dead-named, as is promoted in these policies.”

In July, the VDOE announced new “model policies” for the state’s schools which would force trans and nonbinary students to use bathrooms that align with the sex they were assigned at birth, as well as requiring teachers and other school personnel to refer to students by the name and pronouns that align with the sex they were assigned at birth unless students obtain permission from their parents to use their preferred name and pronouns and banning transgender from competing on sports teams that correspond with their gender identity.

A spokesperson for Youngkin, who campaigned on so-called “parental rights,” told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the new guidelines “make it clear that when parents are part of the process, schools will accommodate the requests of children and their families. While people exercise their free speech, these policies state that students should be treated with compassion and schools should be free from bullying and harassment.”

The new model policies replace those enacted by the administration of former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), which allowed students to use school facilities and participate in school programs matching their gender identities and required schools to accommodate trans and nonbinary students’ preferred names and pronouns.

Critics of the Youngkin administration’s policies say that they defy federal guidelines issued by President Joe Biden that forbid schools from discriminating against students on the basis of sex. Opponents also cite a federal court ruling in favor of Gavin Grimm, which found that a Virginia high school violated federal nondiscrimination law when it banned Grimm, who is transgender, from using the boys’ bathroom.

Under a 2020 Virginia law, the state is required to develop model policies for school districts to adopt. However, the law includes no enforcement mechanism. That has led some left-leaning school districts to reject the new model policies.

Last month, a vote on the new policies by the Virginia Beach School Board ended in a 5-5 tie, with one member abstaining. The anti-trans policies were not adopted.

As a result, two Virginia Beach parents filed a lawsuit last week attempting to force the school district to adopt the anti-trans policies. According to the AP, the lawsuit states that the plaintiffs “want to protect their children from being compelled to use biologically inaccurate names and pronouns, forced to use bathrooms and locker rooms with members of the opposite sex, or required to pretend during athletic competition that gender identity can override the enduring physical differences between boys and girls.”

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