Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), the largest school district in Virginia, will not adopt Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s new guidance on transgender students in K–12 schools, it has announced.
In a message to parents and children at FCPS—the eleventh-largest school district in the United States—on Aug. 14, Superintendent Michelle Reid said the district had concluded a "detailed legal review" and determined that current policies the district has in place are "consistent with federal and state anti-discrimination laws as required by the new model policies."
Last month, the Virginia Department of Education, under the guidance of Gov. Youngkin, a Republican, rolled out new model policies aimed at ensuring the privacy, dignity, and respect of all students and parents at Virginia's public schools.
The policies also addressed the treatment of transgender students at public schools in the state, including allowing teachers to use pronouns that correspond with a child's biological sex as opposed to their "gender identity"—parent permitting—requiring students to use a bathroom that corresponds with their sex assigned at birth and generally placing more emphasis on parental rights to make decisions concerning their children.
The new model policies, which does allow parents to ask schools to use a "preferred pronoun" and "chosen name" for their child if they wish to do so, replace those published in 2021 under former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration.
However, under FCPS's existing policies, Ms. Reid said, "gender expansive and transgender students" will continue to be addressed by their chosen names and pronouns, will continue to be provided with access to facilities, activities, and/or trips consistent with their gender identity, and will "continue to have their privacy respected regarding gender-expansive or transgender status, legal name, or sex assigned at birth."
According to the current FCPS policy, "Students who identify as gender-expansive or transgender should be called by their chosen name and pronouns, regardless of the name and gender recorded in the student’s permanent pupil record."
Virginia's Updated Policies"School counselors, administrators, or other designated school personnel should work with the student and/or the student’s parents to determine the best course of action to inform teachers, coaches, and other school personnel of this request," the policy states. "Every effort should be made by the student’s teachers to reasonably inform substitute teachers of the student’s chosen name and pronouns."
The policy also dictates that "gender-expansive and transgender students shall be provided with the option of using a locker room or restroom consistent with the student’s gender identity."
"Let me be clear that FCPS remains committed to fostering a safe, supportive, welcoming, and inclusive school environment for all students and staff, including our transgender and gender-expansive students and staff," Ms. Reid said. "We believe that supporting our students and working with parents and caregivers are not mutually exclusive; we already do both and will continue to do so. We know that students can only learn effectively when they feel safe and supported."
The Virginia Department of Education's new policies state, in part, that single-user bathrooms should be made available and accessible to students, and that to ensure all students have access to a learning environment in which they feel comfortable and safe, "where state or federal law requires schools to permit transgender students to share otherwise sex-segregated facilities (such as bathrooms or locker rooms) with students of the opposite sex, parents should be given the right to opt their child out of using such facilities, and the child should be given access to alternative facilities that promote the child’s privacy and safety," the new policies state.
Eligible students should be given the same right to opt out, the policies state.
'Parents Are the Appropriate Decision-Makers'In announcing the new policies, the Virginia Department of Education said they aimed to "restore parental rights in decision-making about their child’s identity while protecting the safety and dignity of all students."
"There is nothing more important than creating a safe and vibrant learning environment for all our students," said Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera. "These policies clarify that parents are the appropriate decision-makers regarding their child’s health and wellbeing and that students are best served when parents, teachers, and school administrators work as a team to support a child’s education. They also affirm that discrimination and bullying of any kind will not be tolerated in Virginia’s public schools."
Gov. Youngkin, meanwhile, noted that public comments, input, and concerns were carefully evaluated and taken into consideration when creating the newly updated model policies.
"The Department of Education has delivered policies that empower parents, prohibit discrimination, create a safe and vibrant learning environment by addressing bullying incidents immediately, and protect the privacy and dignity of all students through bathroom policies, athletic procedures, and student identification measures," he said.
The decision by Fairfax County Public Schools has sparked criticism from Parents Defending Education.
"Per usual, leadership at FCPS is more concerned with appeasing liberal activists than they are in ensuring ALL students feel safe in schools and on-campus facilities," Parents Defending Education senior advisor Michele Exner said in a press release. "The FCPS position potentially forces girls to share their locker rooms, sports fields, and even lodging on field trips with biological males. This is insanity and parents should not stand for it."
The announcement by FCPS comes shortly after Alexandria City Public Schools said it would continue with its existing policies due to concerns that the new policies "do not align with our mission, vision, and core values to support all students and staff."
In July, Arlington Public Schools also stated that it would continue with the existing policies it currently has in place, stating that those policies "protect, affirm, and celebrate transgender, non-binary, and gender-fluid students" and "are of paramount importance" in adhering to its values in support of "inclusion, belonging, well-being and access to quality education."