The Loudoun County School Board approved a policy on the treatment of transgender students Wednesday, following public meetings where emotions ran high, a teacher quit and a man was arrested.
The board approved the policy in a 7-2 vote. Members Jeffrey Morse and John Beatty voted against it. The policy takes effect immediately.
"Heading into this year will feel like a breath of fresh air on so many levels," student Nick Gothard said. "It's a signal to all the trans and LGBTQ students in Loudoun that they're welcomed here, that they're loved here and that they're protected here."
The school board made two amendments to the policy before its passage: It will require all LCPS staff to undergo inclusivity training, and it set a five-year deadline to modify and renovate all school restrooms to add more privacy and individual space.
Morse, who opposed the proposal, said, "It's ambiguous, it's divisive. It's anti-family, anti-privacy, anti-teacher."
Jamie Kaine, the school board student representative, disagreed.
"I would feel no fear and no intimidation from transgender women being in the same bathroom as me because transgender women are women," Kaine said. "These are not people that are coming into the bathroom to look at us or creep on us. That is not the goal of this movement."
The policy does not address transgender youth in sports. The Virginia High School League has its own policy and guidelines for transgender students participating in sports of their gender identity.
Here Are the Main Points of the Policy on the Treatment of Transgender Students
- Staff should allow transgender and gender-expansive students to “use their chosen name and gender pronouns that reflect their consistently asserted gender identity.” Staff should use students’ names and pronouns. “Staff or students who intentionally and persistently refuse to respect a student’s gender identity by using the wrong name and gender pronoun are in violation of this policy.”
- Staff should allow transgender and gender-expansive students to participate in “interscholastic, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities … in a manner consistent with the student’s gender identity.”
- Students should be allowed to use the restrooms and locker rooms that “correspond to their consistently asserted gender identity.” Staff should “take steps to designate gender-inclusive or single-user restrooms commensurate with the size of the school.”
- “All school mental health professionals shall complete training on topics relating to LGBTQ+ students, including procedures for preventing and responding to bullying, harassment and discrimination based on gender identity/expression.”
- “The Superintendent is authorized to develop implementing regulations and school procedures to ensure consistency in practices.”
School systems across Virginia are adopting similar regulations; a new state law gives counties little leeway to consider alternatives.
Go here to see the full text of proposed Policy 8040.
Go here to see the Virginia Department of Education’s “Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools.”
Controversy Leading Up to Vote
The policy became national news after elementary school gym teacher Tanner Cross testified in May that he would not follow it because he believed it would harm children and violate his religious beliefs.
The school district placed Cross on paid administrative leave. A District Court judge ruled that Cross must be reinstated, citing his rights to speech and religious liberty. The school board is appealing the ruling.
At a school board meeting on June 22, parents concerned about the transgender student policy and how schools teach about race held up signs and sang the national anthem, attracting attention across the country. One man was arrested, another man was ticketed for trespassing and a third person was hurt. School board members received death threats, as they did earlier this year.
On Tuesday, the parking lot outside the school board meeting resembled the crowd for a campaign rally. To get inside, more than 150 people waited for their number to be called into a megaphone by a school employee.
During public comment, substitute teacher Emily Hart said the proposed policy would violate her religious rights.
“[It] would force teachers to act against their sincerely held religious beliefs," she said.
For the same reason, Laura Morris, a woman who said she's been a full-time teacher in Loudoun County for five years, quit her job during her speaking time.
"School board, I quit. I quit your policies, I quit your trainings and I quit being a cog in a machine that tells me to push highly politicized agendas on our most vulnerable constituents — the children,” she said. "I will find employment elsewhere."
The board recessed after four hours of public comment, reconvened Wednesday and passed the policy.