Parents in Virginia Beach, Virginia, have filed a lawsuit to make the school board comply with Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s new model policies for transgender issues in schools, including one that would require students to use the bathroom corresponding to their biological sex rather than their chosen gender identity.
The lawsuit was filed by the Cooper & Kirk Law Firm on behalf of the two parents, arguing that the Virginia Beach school board is ignoring the parents’ right to make basic decisions about their child’s education and well-being.
The lawyers argue that biology should determine which locker room, bathroom, sports team, and pronoun policies the district enacts.
“The school board does not have the authority to compel students to use biologically inaccurate pronouns, to share bathrooms and locker rooms with students of the opposite sex, or to pretend that gender identity can override the natural physical differences between boys and girls in athletic competition,” Chuck Cooper, lead counsel in the lawsuit, told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement.
“School boards have no discretion to reject the Model Policies or otherwise maintain inconsistent policies, yet the Virginia Beach School Board has unlawfully voted against adopting the Model Policies. Our clients, two parents of Virginia Beach students, have courageously decided to stand up for the rights of their children and parents in the Commonwealth, and we are honored to represent them in this important case,” Mr. Cooper said.
The lawsuit also says that the school board does not have the authority to ignore Virginia law.
Background of the CaseIn July, the Virginia Department of Education issued new model policies (pdf) regarding transgender students, which rolled back some parts of the 2021 model policies in order to protect all students and include parents in their child’s education more fully.
In August, Virginia Beach School Board member Victoria Manning introduced a resolution that would have had Virginia Beach adopt the new model policies, including the policies concerning transgender students, but the resolution failed to pass, with five members voting in favor, five against, and one abstaining.
“A majority of the Virginia Beach school board failed to support my resolution, which would have put us in compliance with the law, but I'm glad that there are parents willing to take a stand to protect children and hold the board accountable,” Ms. Manning told The Epoch Times.
The lawsuit underscores the need to change policies that compel people to speak in ways that go against their beliefs.
“The Model Policies firmly protect students and teachers from being compelled to use biologically inaccurate pronouns to refer to transgender students when those names or pronouns are not in the official record or when doing so would violate a student or teacher’s right not to have to speak in a way that affirms gender transition,” reads the lawsuit.
School Board OpinionThe Virginia Beach School Board held a special meeting on Sept. 25 to make changes to the model policy and hear public comments.
School board member Kathleen Brown told The Epoch Times that she supports policies that are consistent with the 2023 model policies, and she is not certain at this time if she will support the final changes the school board is making to the policies.
“I believe that Grimm versus Gloucester is a narrow case,” said Ms. Brown. “I think that we need to, you know, take a look at the circumstances surrounding Grimm versus Gloucester in our policymaking and regulations.”
The lawsuit says that the Grimm case is not as broad as transgender advocates claim.
Under the new model policy, teachers and students must refer to a transgender student by the name and pronouns associated with their biological sex unless parents have agreed in writing to the student’s preferred pronouns and gender identification.
Opposition to PoliciesMr. Youngkin recently said school districts must adopt the model policies, which are created to give parents greater control in the education and upbringing of their children and to require schools to be transparent and ensure important information is not being withheld from parents.
“I'm proud of them for standing up for their children and for kids. I support them. As you know, I firmly believe that there is no other decision for school boards than to adopt the model policies or policies consistent with the model policies. I applaud these parents for standing up for their kids,” Mr. Youngkin said about the lawsuit in a recent statement.
However, Beverly Anderson, one of the school board members opposed to the policies, called them politically motivated.
In an email to The Epoch Times, she said Mr. Youngkin “doesn’t know what’s best for Virginia Beach, for our 65,000 students. He’s going for what he thinks is going to bring out his base of supporters” in the November state legislative elections, where control of both chambers is up grabs.
Opponents also say Mr. Youngkin’s policies violate federal law.
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares came out with a formal opinion on the new policies, saying they are in line with state and federal laws.
“If a school board voted not to adopt policies consistent with the model policies, parents can sue under current state law. Our office will be monitoring all litigation and will be prepared to participate where doing so is appropriate and parents have valid claims,” a spokesperson for the attorney general told The Epoch Times.
The lawsuit, filed Sept. 21 in Virginia Beach Circuit Court, seeks a declaration that school boards must adopt regulations consistent with the Youngkin administration’s model policies, and an injunction requiring the Virginia Beach board to adopt them.