The Virginia Department of Education, under the direction of Gov. Glenn Youngkin, R, put out new guidelines for policies regarding the treatment of transgender students. It is being billed by the department as a way to protect a parent’s right to make decisions about their child’s life and education, but it’s also being met with protest.
A sample policy provided by the state requires school district personnel to refer to each student using only the pronouns “appropriate to the sex appearing in the student’s official record”, unless parents put in writing that their child has changed genders.
The policy also states students should only use the bathroom that corresponds with their birth sex and that there should be single-user, or what is often referred to as family or gender neutral bathroom, available to all students.
“I would say trust your parents. At the moment where there are very difficult issues in families and challenging issues in families, families come together and this is why parents in fact have a role in their children’s lives,” Gov. Youngkin told WUSA 9 News.
High school students from around the state oppose the new guidelines. Students from nearly 100 Virginia schools walked out of their classrooms in protest, including approximately 50 students from Washington-Liberty High School in Arlington.
“The students very clearly believe that this is cruel, this is unjust, this is unneeded, this is unnecessary. This is just treating kids who are already at a higher rate of suicide like pawns, and it’s just going to make their life worse,” Washington-Liberty Student Waltz Fellone told Straight Arrow News.
Transgender students at the high school said they don’t want a policy. That includes Matteo Hope who was born female but now uses he/him pronouns.
“They’re just pronouns, I don’t see why this is a government thing. It’s just something I use. I use he/him pronouns and I prefer that,” Hope, a Washington-Liberty student said. “It shouldn’t be something that you have to put into a policy that says I can’t. It doesn’t affect anyone except me. So whose decision else should it be? Whose decision? It should be my decision, not his.”
Under Youngkin’s policy, Matteo’s teachers would be required to inform his parents that they learned he changed genders. But Matteo does not believe that should be allowed or required.
“If their parents are unaccepting they could be kicked out of the house, they could be shunned, they could be beaten. There are so many things that could happen that could put them in such an unsafe situation,” Hope said. “It should be based on the kids to come out to their families if they choose so.”