LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va.—Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) board on Aug. 11 approved a pro-transgender policy requiring staff to address students with their preferred pronouns, and allowing transgender students access to bathrooms and locker rooms according to their self-identified gender.
In addition, the board introduced amendments that require all LCPS staff instead of mental health professionals to “complete training on topics relating to LGBTQ+ students,” and schools to create more single-user restrooms within the next five years.
Policy 8040 passed seven to two, with board members Jeff Morse and John Beatty opposing. The Aug. 11 meeting was an extended session from a meeting a day before and allowed public viewing.
LCPS board member John Beatty told The Epoch Times: “I feel upset about the vote. Many parents’ voices are being ignored by this decision.”
“I think in Loudoun County, many parents now are so involved in what their children are learning, which is phenomenal. And that’s what you want,” added Beatty.
Beatty motioned to refer the amended policy back to the Pupil Services Committee (PSC), allowing more consideration and time to build trust in the community. In response, school board Chair Brenda Sheridan invited Asia R. Jones, assistant superintendent for pupil services at LCPS, to comment on the timeline. Jones said that though the code didn’t specify a deadline, the enactment clause of the acts of the assembly stated “no later than the beginning of the 2021–2022 school year.” As a result, the board voted out the motion.
Jeff Morse, another board member who voted against the policy, said that the community voice is missing even though the board had involved other committees.
“It’s a difficult night for our community. Under the guise of inclusivity, we are taking action on a policy that’s unnecessary. It’s ambiguous. It’s divisive. It’s anti-family, anti-privacy, anti-teacher,” Morse said.
LCPS Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler mentioned that other committees were sometimes given preferential treatment in their roles as advisory committees to the school board, and community organizations had the opportunity to submit comments online or during school board meetings.
In feedback (pdf) released by LCPS, over half of the 87 comments were against the new policy, while 25 were for the policy. Safety and privacy were common concerns in the comments.
The majority of the in-person comments during the June 22 and Aug. 10 school board meetings also opposed the policy. However, Mark J. Smith, chief of staff of LCPS, didn’t speak about the public comments. Instead, he said the policy received the most feedback and enjoyed the most extended comment period, and whether to adopt it would be the school board’s sole decision.
School board member Harris Mahedavi made an effort to clarify that the policy was Virginia law and not something the school board had allowed to happen. “If you have concerns issues regarding this policy, you should speak to your delegates or senators,” he added.
Morse disagreed, saying the policy “goes well beyond the state’s model policy.”
“This isn’t just the first step. This is the next step because we’ve already taken some steps in Policy 1040 to expand the rights of LGBTQ students, but we know that our transgender and gender-expansive students need even more,” said school board Chair Brenda L. Sheridan. “I fully support Policy 8040 as amended this evening,” she added before moving the policy to vote.