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Virginia sued over Glenn Youngkin’s anti-transgender student policies

Author: Christopher Wiggins

On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia filed lawsuits against the Virginia Department of Education on behalf of two transgender students, challenging the department’s 2023 “Model Policies to Ensure Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools.” The legal actions, initiated on Feb. 15, 2024, argue that the policies contravene a 2020 state law mandating inclusive and equitable treatment for transgender and nonbinary students.

The suits, known as Doe v. VDOE and Loe v. VDOE, mark a significant confrontation over the rights of transgender students in Virginia. The ACLU contends that the policies, enacted under the administration of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, discriminate against transgender students by mandating facility usage based on sex assigned at birth and requiring parental consent for name and pronoun changes, among other provisions.

“VDOE’s 2023 model policies harm the very students they’re supposed to protect. They contradict both their legal mandate and the evidence-based best practices they’re supposed to reflect, and they have already resulted in discrimination that violates state and federal law,” ACLU of Virginia senior transgender rights attorney Wyatt Rolla said in a press release. “It’s a shame VDOE has put school districts between such a rock and a hard place by telling them to implement policies that could open them up to serious legal trouble.”

This legal battle unfolds against a backdrop of resistance from various school districts across Virginia, including Arlington Public Schools. Francisco Durán, superintendent of Arlington Public Schools, told The Advocate in 2023 that his district would continue to prioritize inclusivity and the protection of transgender students, signaling a refusal to implement Youngkin’s controversial guidelines. “As the superintendent of all students, regardless of their background, it’s my responsibility to ensure we provide a welcoming, safe environment for them,” Durán said, reaffirming the district’s commitment to Virginia law and evidence-based practices.

The lawsuits center on the experiences of “Jane Doe,” a high school student in York County, and “Lily Loe,” a middle school student in Hanover County. Both students have faced discrimination as a direct result of the VDOE’s 2023 model policies, the ACLU claims. The ACLU is asking the courts to overturn these policies, arguing they fail to comply with the legal mandate for evidence-based best practices and inclusive treatment of transgender students.

“It doesn’t surprise me that an overwhelming number of people – many of them parents like me – sent comments to VDOE opposing these policies,” said parent Jill Doe in the release. “VDOE’s model policies do the opposite of what they’re supposed to: they undermine my ability to parent my child, they undermine our school district’s ability to educate her, and most of all, they undermine my child’s health and wellbeing.”

Youngkin’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Christopher Wiggins

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