In September 2022, Governor Youngkin’s Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) proposed withdrawing the 2021 model policies for the treatment of transgender students in Virginia's public schools and replacing them with new model policies. The 2022 proposed model policies seek to erase transgender and nonbinary youth from schools, creating a hostile and potentially dangerous environment.
The 2022 proposed model policies are a significant departure from the current 2021 model policies. The 2021 model policies were created under the Governor Northam VDOE after the General Assembly passed a law in 2020 directing VDOE to develop evidence-based best practice model policies on the treatment of transgender and nonbinary students. The 2021 model policies are trans-affirming and were created in collaboration with various stakeholders, including parents, teachers and transgender students. All Virginia public schools were required to adopt policies consistent with or more comprehensive than the 2021 model policies by the 2021-2022 school year, but not all school districts did. And now, the current VDOE has proposed to replace the 2021 model policies with new policies that ignore both the law and evidence-based best practices. Instead, the proposed model policies seek to impose harmful, anti-trans practices on Virginia’s young people.
While alarming, the 2022 proposed model policies are not yet in effect! The policies were required to go through a 30-day public comment period before they may be finalized by VDOE. The comment period closed on October 26, 2022 and a record-breaking 71,000 public comments were submitted.
The original finalization date for the proposed model policies was October 27, 2022. However, because some public comments asserted that the 2022 proposed model policies violate the law, Virginia's administrative process required a 30-day extension to the review period, moving the finalization date to November 26th. As of today, VDOE still has not issued a response to comments nor finalized the 2022 proposed model policies.
Even if VDOE finalizes the 2022 proposed model policies, individual school boards will still have to vote to adopt the policies for them to be implemented at the local level.
If you support transgender and nonbinary youth, one step you can take right now is to sign up for the ACLU-VA newsletter and take the Pride Pledge to receive updates on the model policies and action opportunities. We need your help to make it clear that an overwhelming number of Virginians oppose these transphobic policies.