Va. Governor Says Schools Must Use Students' Legal Names, Pronouns; 'Children Do Not Belong to the State'

By Susan Jones | September 20, 2022 | 8:36am EDT
A man carries a sign into a Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) board meeting in Ashburn, Virginia on October 12, 2021. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)
A man carries a sign into a Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) board meeting in Ashburn, Virginia on October 12, 2021. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Virginia's Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has issued a set of "model policies" that local school boards must follow, including guidance on dealing with transgender students.

At the heart of the model policies is this: "Parents have the right to make decisions with respect to their children: Policies shall be drafted to safeguard parents’ rights with respect to their child, and to facilitate the exercise of those rights."

"First of all, this is not controversial," Youngkin told Fox News's Sean Hannity Monday night.

"This is restoring power to parents. And let's just be clear. Children do not belong to the state. They belong to families. And when a child is wrestling with this kind of decision, a parent should absolutely be the primary counselor advisor and helper in wrestling with this decision.

"That doesn't mean that there's not a role for a teacher or a trusted counselor or administrator. But parents should be the absolute primary advisor. And to shut them out -- to close them out of this -- doesn't make sense.

"That's why we pressed forward with these model policies that put parents in the primary role, and anybody who thinks that parents should be shut out, I can't quite understand where they think the decision should be made if families and parents aren't the primary decision-maker with the child."

Names and pronouns

The model policies include a prohibition on "all discrimination, harassment, and bullying based on actual national origin, race, religion, sex, disability, political beliefs, or any other characteristic protected by law."

Regarding transgender students specifically, the model policy says, "Every effort should be made to ensure that a transgender student wishing to change his or her means of address is treated with respect, compassion, and dignity in the classroom and school environment."

But, the model policy also says school personnel --

-- "shall refer to each student using only (i) the name that appears in the student’s official record, or (ii) if the student prefers, using any nickname commonly associated with the name that appears in the student’s official record."

-- "shall refer to each student using only the pronouns appropriate to the sex appearing in the student’s official record -- that is, male pronouns for a student whose legal sex is male, and female pronouns for a student whose legal sex is female."

-- "shall refer to a student by a name other than one in the student’s official record, or by pronouns other than those appropriate to the sex appearing in the student’s official record, only if an eligible student or a student’s parent has instructed [School Division] in writing that such other name or other pronouns be used because of the student’s persistent and sincere belief that the student’s gender differs from his or her sex."

The written instructions must be memorialized in the student's record.

However, the legal name and sex of a student shall not be changed in the official record unless a parent or eligible student "submits a legal document, such as a birth certificate, state- or federal-issued identification, passport, or court order substantiating the student or former student’s change of legal name or sex."

The document says school personnel and other students shall not be compelled to "address or refer to students in any manner that would violate their constitutionally protected rights."

It also says teachers may not "conceal material information about a student from the student’s parent, including information related to gender."

Youngkin told Hannity that local school boards need to adopt their own final policies that are consistent with the new model.

"And at the core is parental notification and involvement. And that's the crucial point. It's the law -- it is the law in Virginia that these model policies have to be the basis for the final policies.

"And let's just get back to the basic reality. In Virginia, in our code and in federal lawsuits that have been rendered decisions by courts, parents are the primary decision maker. And this is not controversial.

“And I think we've just got to get back to this basic premise. We battled this when, in fact, I signed my first executive order and empowered parents to make decisions with regard to masks in schools. If you want to wear a mask, wear one. If you don't, parents get to decide not to.

"And it's the same left-progressive liberals who were -- who were objecting to that moment that are objecting here. This is all about parents’ rights."

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