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Conversion therapy ban, Trans student policies ‘overreach’ says candidate

The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association & other professional organizations oppose conversion therapy

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Bob Frizzelle (Screenshot via campaign advert YouTube)

CHANTILLY, Va. – The Republican who is seeking to unseat Virginia state Del. Karrie Delaney (D-Fairfax County), challenged her on social media for supporting a law that bans so-called conversion therapy for minors and efforts to protect transgender students from bullying and harassment.

Bob Frizzelle tweeted on Sept. 28 a video stating Virginia’s “new progressive laws” limit parents’ right to know if their child “changes their gender in school” or their right to take their child to “gender counseling.”

On Instagram and Facebook, Frizzelle criticized what he later told the Washington Blade was “overreach” by the state, and called out Delaney for supporting legislation that he felt stood between parents and their duty to ensure their children’s wellbeing.

“You have a minor child under the care and guidance of their parents until they reach 18 and the state steps in and decides what is allowed and not allowed in terms of gender counseling,” Frizzelle said.

“It seems conversion therapy is an exercise in cruelty and torture, and I’m not advocating that either, I wouldn’t want that,” he said. “But this is about counseling and parents being the main authority over what is best for their child instead of the state.”

The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and a host of therapeutic professional organizations oppose the use of conversion therapy, stating it is ineffective, harmful and not evidence-based.

Currently, 20 states and numerous localities, including D.C., ban the use of this discredited practice.

Delaney voted for House Bill 386, sponsored by state Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington County), and helped make Virginia the first Southern state to ban conversion therapy for minors.

“For the record, I’m proud to have taken that vote,” Delaney told the Blade. “It’s a debunked, unethical practice that is proven to harm children.”

“In my view, it’s akin to fraud,” added Sasha Buchert, senior attorney for Lambda Legal’s D.C. office. “They’re attempting to implement a practice that has been shown not to provide effective treatment and is grounded not in science and medicine but in ideology.”

But, contrary to Frizzelle’s claim, parents can still take their children to LGBTQ counseling.

Both Delaney and Buchert emphasized the conversion therapy ban does not prevent parents from taking their children to a licensed therapist if they are struggling with understanding their gender identity or sexual orientation. They agreed that therapy must be evidence-based and proven, not abusive, or according to Buchert, “torture.”

According to a lawsuit filed in New Jersey in 2015 in which victims successfully shut down a religious organization practicing conversion therapy despite the state’s ban, “therapy” sessions involved “humiliating” acts, including reliving past abuse and enduring homophobic slurs as part of “talk therapy.”

“Remember, we’re talking about children,” Delaney said. “Hearing from some of those survivors, it’s pretty horrific.”

Last year, Delaney was one of four Democrats who killed House Bill 966, sponsored by state Del. Wendell Walker (R-Lynchburg), that would have allowed conversion therapy for minors if counseling involved “nothing more than ‘talk therapy.’”

“Anyone with any experience in this field knows it doesn’t have to be a physical type of therapy to do harm,” Delaney said. “‘Talk’ is a powerful tool. We license professions if there is harm that can be done. That applies to therapists in Virginia.”

Frizzelle also challenged Delaney’s support for the Virginia Department of Education model policies for protecting trans students from bullying and harassment in school. 

He said the policies enable schools to change a student’s information in their records, such as their pronouns, without notifying parents.

“I haven’t read the trans statute,” Frizzelle admitted candidly. “But I think the school may tell the parents only if it wants to. The school then gets to decide to tell parents, if it wants to, if there is a significant event regarding their child. Should the school have this discretion?”

However, nothing in the governing statute passed last year prevents parents from receiving information about their child, according to Delaney, who was one of the House bill’s numerous sponsors.

“This bill does not take away any parental rights,” Delaney said. “Parents are not barred from having access to information about their students. There’s nothing in this law that says parents cannot be informed about their student.”

Delaney pointed out the purpose of the statute is to direct the state Department of Education and local school boards to develop policies that, according to its text, “address common issues regarding transgender students in accordance with evidence-based best practices.”

The text also states school policies are to protect trans students in “compliance with applicable nondiscrimination laws.”

“The purpose of these policies is to maintain a safe and supportive learning environment that is free from harassment so these kids can learn,” Delaney said.

Buchert added that LGBTQ youth reported “in study after study” high rates of harassment, bullying and discrimination from other students, teachers and administrators, particularly if they also were students of color.

“It leads you to missing school, it makes you not want to come to your gym class, it makes you fearful and leaves you pushed out into the school-to-prison pipeline,” she said.

Buchert also looked at the student privacy aspect of the law as necessary to protect LGBTQ students until they are ready to come out to their friends and family.

She said part of protecting students is giving them a safe space to learn more about themselves and who they are in the world, instead of forcing them out of the closet before they are ready.

“Your family may not be prepared or well-suited to help you navigate those unique struggles,” Buchert said, pointing out that while some parents are understanding and supportive, others might push the child out of the home to fend for themselves.

“And that’s why the LGBTQ youth homeless rate is so high,” Buchert said. “Forcibly outing them before they or their families are ready can be extremely harmful. The things Frizzelle is supporting would cause serious harm to LGBTQ youth and their families.”

Both Virginia’s conversion therapy ban and trans student protections passed with bipartisan support, and Delaney said they were examples of legislators doing their job to protect vulnerable children in the commonwealth.

But Frizzelle was still uncomfortable with how he perceived rights were balanced in these bills.

“I think this is such a thorny issue because you want to treat everyone with respect,” Frizzelle told the Blade. “And the reason I made the video and I have the objection is I’m uncomfortable with parents being separated from their children’s care by the state like this. I think that is not the proper function of the state.”

Delaney pointed it this in fact is the proper role of the state: To protect children whom studies have shown to be vulnerable targets of harassment, discrimination and abuse.

“What we’re trying to do as a legislature is protect these children,” Delaney said. “And Frizzelle is dividing parents over a problem that is manufactured and not based in fact, and that is very sad.”

Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck agreed that the government has the authority and the duty to protect vulnerable people from harm. They also stated the government has the additional responsibility of ensuring everyone can benefit equally from public goods, such as receiving an education free from harassment.

“The government has the authority—and is supposed to use it—to protect vulnerable people from harm,” Lamneck said. “Laws that ensure transgender students can benefit from public education, and that LGBTQ young people are not subjected to practices that are known to cause lasting psychological damage, fall squarely within that authority and obligation.”

“No one, including parents, should be permitted to endanger the health and wellbeing of children in the ways prohibited by those laws,” added Lamneck.

Virginia

Virginia shopping center hit with homophobic, racist graffiti

Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Michele Bowman said another, similar display of hate graffiti was found on Saturday at the nearby Dulles Landing

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Graffiti at a Loudoun County shopping center is being investigated as a hate crime. (Photo Credit: Timbers Landscaping Care LLC/Facebook)

SOUTH RIDING, Va. – The Loudoun County, Va., Sheriff’s Office is seeking help from the public for its investigation into an incident on Friday, Dec. 2, in which an unidentified suspect or suspects spray-painted anti-LGBTQ, racist, and anti-Semitic graffiti at a shopping center.

A spokesperson for the Sheriff’s office told the Washington Blade the graffiti, which is considered an act of vandalism and is being investigated as a possible hate crime, was found painted on the side of a building that once housed a Food Lion supermarket at the South Riding Town Center, which is located near Dulles airport about four miles west of Chantilly.

The Sheriff’s Office did not disclose the exact wording of the graffiti. But news media reports, including a report by WTOP News, said the graffiti included Nazi swastikas, racial slurs, and the phrase “stop white genocide.”

Among the graffiti messages was the symbol “1488,” which indicates “the perpetrator’s endorsement of white supremacy and its beliefs,” according to a statement from the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington as reported by the local publication Inside NOVA.

Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Michele Bowman said another, similar display of hate graffiti was found on Saturday behind the Bed Bath & Beyond building at the nearby Dulles Landing shopping center. Bowman said the Sheriff’s Office is also investigating that incident.

“There is no place in society for this behavior,” a statement released by the Sheriff’s Office on Facebook says.

“The LCSO takes this very seriously and is working with our station detectives, School Resource Officers, and our FBI Task Force member, and is reviewing social media and other potential leads to determine who is responsible for this vile act,” the statement says.

“We are asking the public for their assistance as well,” it says. “If anyone has information that may be helpful, please call Detective Fornwalt at 703-777-1021,” the statement says.

Loudoun4All, which describes itself as an advocacy organization that supports equality, announced on Facebook that it organized a rally on Sunday, Dec. 4, at the site of the graffiti at South Riding Town Center to speak out against hate.

The announcement says the group also arranged for volunteers to help remove the graffiti after learning that the Sheriff’s Office does not have authority to remove such graffiti on private property.

“About 50 local residents joined the rally, which took place along the side of Tall Cedars Parkway where the graffiti had been painted,” the group said in its Facebook posting. “Rally goers held signs with inclusive and supportive messages and waved at cars driving by,” the posting says.

It says that local resident Quante Timbers, the owner of Timbers Landscaping Care, LLC, volunteered his services by bringing a power washer to the site to remove most of the graffiti.

“Where his hoses wouldn’t reach, local kids converted the spray-painted message of hate into chalked messages of love,” the Loudoun4All statement says.

Loudoun Sheriff’s spokesperson Bowman said there were no updates to report on the investigation as of Monday, Dec. 5.

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Anti-LGBTQ dominates ‘divisive’ subjects tip line FOIA suit shows

The media outlets involved in the FOIA lawsuit include the Washington Post, the Associated Press, NPR and Washington D.C.’s NBC 4

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

WASHINGTON – A Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that several media outlets filed has revealed Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s tip line about the teaching of “divisive” subjects in the state’s schools received hundreds of emails.

The Washington Post on Thursday reported complaints about LGBTQ students and topics in schools are among the emails received.

“These books are, in my opinion, making children desensitized to healthy sexual relationships and are grooming in nature,” said a Spotsylvania County mother. 

Other parents said they were concerned about gender identity being taught in schools.

Youngkin shortly after he took office in January announced the tip line to which parents could have used to report the teaching of “divisive” subjects. Youngkin during an appearance with John Fredericks on “Outside the Beltway with John Fredericks” earlier this year did not specifically say whether parents should report teachers who are teaching about LGBTQ issues.

Youngkin’s administration in September shut down the tip line.

The Post and other media outlets filed the FOIA lawsuit in April.

Youngkin claimed the tip line emails fell under the FOIA exemption for a governor’s “working papers and correspondence.” The hundreds of emails that were released were just a fraction of the total number of tips, since the media outlets suing for this information claimed that the exemption Youngkin used did not apply to the tip lines since those were shared with individuals outside of the governor’s office. 

The media outlets involved in this lawsuit include the Post, the Associated Press, NPR and Washington D.C.’s NBC 4. 

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Virginia Education Dept. holds hearing on revision of trans policies

The majority of speakers who spoke at the Oct. 20 meeting expressed their opposition to the proposed revisions

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Members of the Pride Liberation Project hold signs supporting LGBTQ youth at a Fairfax County School Board meeting. The Virginia Department of Education on Oct. 20, 2022, heard testimony for proposed revisions to guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. – The Virginia Department of Education on Thursday heard testimony on Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposed revisions to guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

The majority of speakers who spoke at the meeting expressed their opposition to the proposed revisions. They included students and parents who are worried about their trans and nonbinary children. 

 “If you enact these policies, children will die,” said trans student Guin Hartinger. 

Nancy Kunkel said she lives in constant fear of losing her trans daughter to suicide. 

The policies that are being proposed would force students to use bathrooms that correspond with their biological sex, rather than their gender identity. Trans students and their allies across Virginia have protested Youngkin’s proposed revisions to the guidelines that his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, signed into law in 2020.

Equality Virginia and their supporters attended Thursday’s meeting and have expressed their opposition to the proposed policy revisions online.

The public comment period ends on Oct. 26.

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Virginia school board passes LGBTQ History Month recognition

“Our policies and regulations will continue supporting our transgender and gender-expansive students, staff, & families from discrimination”

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Students and community activists gather for a rally outside Luther Jackson Middle School on Thursday, Oct. 6. (Photo by Michael Key)

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. – A group of more than 200 activists gathered outside of Luther Jackson Middle School in Vienna on Thursday to object to the new “model policies” for transgender students proposed by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration.

Many activists have voiced support for the policies enacted by the General Assembly and former Gov. Ralph Northam, which were intended to protect LGBTQ students in general, and trans and gender nonconforming students in particular. However, the Youngkin administration released revisions on Sept. 16 that differ substantially from the policies passed into law in 2020.

The activists oppose the revised “model policies” for including the mandate that students use school facilities for the sex they were assigned at birth and the restriction of students to be able to change their names and pronouns without parental permission. Further, the policies direct teachers and staff not to conceal a student’s gender identity from parents, even when a student asks to keep that information private.

Activists from the student-led Pride Liberation Project were joined by state Del. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church), educators, students, concerned community members and activists from the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, Pride in FCPS and the Democratic Socialists of America ahead of the Fairfax County School Board meeting before it took place inside the middle school.

McLean High School senior Casey Calabia, a Pride Liberation Project organizer, spoke to the crowd.

“When I came here this afternoon, I made the active choice to forget the probability and statistics test I have because how can these classes mean anything to me when my rights are at risk, when my safety in a classroom is at risk,” said Calabia. “Education is not for parents, education is not for teachers, it is not for your next political agenda, education is for students.”

“It is to bring up the next generation to be competent, to be kind, to be loving and to feel safe where they deserve to be safe,” added Calabia. “How can my county do anything but make the necessary move for our education to keep us better? To keep us safe?”

“When it’s hard, when we face resistance, there are tons of people and thousands more that come to places like this to stand up for trans kids, to stand up for queer kids,” Calabia said. “I am proud that I get to honor a long-standing tradition of queerness, of being nonbinary, of being transgender. It is something I’m privileged to do every single day of my life. So it is here at FCPS that I’m grateful to everyone continuing to help defend my right to thrive. Every single one of my fellow students, teachers, staff and community members equally deserves their right to thrive.”

Fairfax County students were joined at the rally by parents like Laura Stokes.

“I’m a very proud parent of a trans nonbinary fourth grader in FCPS,” Stokes told the assembled activists.

“Whenever Youngkin says he’s about ‘respecting parents’ choice,’ I don’t feel like I’m reflected in that statement. What about parents like me?” Stokes asked. “I don’t see myself in that proposal. I don’t see myself in that policy.”

David Walrod of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers admonished the Youngkin administration.

“What we have seen from Glenn Youngkin and the Virginia Department of Education is unconscionable, reprehensible,” Walrod said.

“We’ve seen governors use students as political pawns before.” Walrod charged. “We’ve seen governors like Gregg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida create the most dehumanizing laws against LGBTQ students that they could think of. The Virginia legislature saw past the political games and they saw human beings, they saw students, they saw children.”

“The Northam administration supported these efforts and created policies meant to protect students, promote inclusion and equity and give students a chance to thrive,” Walrod continued. “Gov. Youngkin and Supt. Ballow on the other hand have shown us they don’t believe members of the LGBTQ+ community are worthy of protection. They’ve shown us that they support demonizing students to score political points.”

“I ask the school board to say ‘no’ to Glenn Youngkin,” Walrod said. “I ask the school board to say ‘no’ to Jillian Ballow and I ask the Fairfax County School Board to say ‘yes’ to giving students the ability to be themselves.”

Following the rally, activists filed into the Luther Jackson Middle School auditorium for the Fairfax County School Board’s public meeting.

Board Chair Rachna Sizemore Heizer began the meeting with a statement prepared by the board and acknowledged the large crowd of LGBTQ student activists in attendance.

“The Fairfax County School Board understands that our LGBTQIA+ students, staff, and families are worried about the impact of Gov. Youngkin’s proposed model policies for transgender and gender-expansive students,” Heizer read into the public record. “Nearly one in five transgender and non-binary youth attempted suicide in the last year. LGBTQIA+ youth who found their school to be affirming reported lower rates of attempting suicide. It is necessary to ensure our school community is a place where all students can live without fear of prejudice, discrimination, harassment or violence.”

“Our policies and regulations will continue supporting our transgender and gender-expansive students, staff, and families. Fairfax County School Board Policy 1450 protects students, educators, and other staff from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Heizer continued.

Heizer then listed the protections outlined in FCPS Regulation 2603 and reiterated the board’s commitment to the Viriginia Human Rights Act, Title IX and the “settled law of Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board,” requiring respect for students’ gender identity.

“Protecting, supporting and affirming our transgender and gender-expansive students is critical to achieving a safe and respectful learning environment for all students, and providing them with equal access to educational programs, services, and activities. The work to do so in a holistically inclusive way continues, but we know that, from this commitment, we will not waiver,” concluded Heizer.

The board later unanimously passed a resolution introduced by member Karl Frisch (Providence District) recognizing October as LGBTQ History Month in Fairfax County Public Schools.

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HS Students in Virginia stage massive walk-outs over Trans policy

The student-led Virginia-based Pride Liberation Project organizing mass walkouts and rallies in more than 90 schools across the state

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Youth activists in schools across Virginia walked out of class to rally against proposed changes to school policy for LGBTQ students. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

FAIRFAX COUNTY – Thousands of students in schools across Virginia participated in walkouts and rallies on Tuesday to oppose the revised “model policies” on transgender students released by the Virginia Department of Education.

VDOE policy revisions were released on Sept. 16 and differ substantially from the policies passed into law in 2020.

The original policies on the treatment of trans students were intended to protect LGBTQ students; but the revised “model policies” have been criticized by activists, educators and legislators for mandating students use school facilities for the sex they were assigned at birth and bars students from changing their names and pronouns without parental permission. Further, the policies direct teachers and staff not to conceal a student’s gender identity from parents, even when a student asks to keep that information private.

The student-led Virginia-based Pride Liberation Project responded to these policy changes by organizing mass walkouts and rallies in more than 90 schools from Alexandria to Williamsburg.

“These proposed guidelines are essentially taking that cornerstone and using it to undermine our rights. If these guidelines are implemented, it will be the single biggest loss for queer rights in Virginia in years,” Natasha Sanghvi, a student organizer with the Pride Liberation Project, said in a statement.

Openly gay Virginia state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) in a statement said “these new model policies, which are in flagrant violation of Virginia law, will do serious harm to transgender students. They are not based in science or compassion and will lead to students being outed before they are ready, increased bullying and harassment of marginalized youth, and will require students to jump through legal hoops just to be referred to with their proper name.”

Ebbin joined several hundred students at West Potomac High School in Alexandria in a rally opposing the model policies proposed by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

“The new policy drafts are only going to do more harm to trans students who are already at risk for being outed, harassed and harmed,” Jules Lombardi, a Fairfax County high school senior, told the Washington Blade. “These drafts will take schools, which are supposed to be safe environments for students, and make them spaces where students have to hide themselves for fear of their parents finding out about their identities.”

“This isn’t a matter of ‘parental rights,’ it’s a matter of human rights and we deserve to be treated with the same respect as cis students,” Lombardi added.

Students in more than 90 schools across Virginia participated in walkouts on Tuesday, Sept. 27.
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Andrea-Grace Mukuna, a senior at John R. Lewis High School in Springfield, told the Blade that “gender affirmation matters. Something so easily given to cisgender people is a right that our trans and gender non conforming youth deserve. I am walking out because schools will no longer be a safe place for queer students to be in if these policies get passed.”

“Requirements for teachers to refer to students by their birth name and pronouns aligning with their sex, rather than trusting our students to know themselves and who they are best, reinforces the idea that we as students have no power, no control and no knowledge over anything in our lives. Gender queer youth exist, and no policy can change that,” Mukuna said.

Mukuna continued, “making an attempt at denying them their ability to be who they are is a malicious attack on vulnerable students that could cause deathly harm.”

“I walk out for my queer community — there is no erasing us,” Mukuna said.

Several hundred students walked out of McLean High School. The walkout was lead by members of the school’s GSA and organizers from the Pride Liberation Project including McLean High School senior Casey Calabia.

Calibia asked the crowd, “Do we want Gov. Youngkin to understand that this is not what Virginia looks like?”

The crowd roared, “yes!”

“Virginia stands for trans kids. Trans and queer people are a fact of humanity. We will be accepted one way or another and to see everybody here today is another step toward that change,” said Calibia through a bull horn.

Calibia told the Blade in a pre-walkout statement said “to call these policies in favor of respecting trans students’ rights and privacy is to call an apple an orange. The 2022 Transgender Model policies, even as a draft, have begun to actively hurt my community’s mental health.”

“Instead of focusing on academics and our future, we have to sit in class and wonder if we will be safe in school,” Calibia concluded. “To not only take away the 2021 policies, a cornerstone in LGBTQIA+ rights for Virginia, but to mock them with these replacements, is a devastating blow to myself, trans students, queer students, and the whole of Virginia’s public school student body. How can we be safe, if we can be taken out of school-provided counseling, maliciously misgendered, and denied opportunities given to other students simply because of our gender? Accepting queer students in class does not indoctrinate or brainwash kids. It tells queer students like me that it is okay and safe to be ourselves in school.”

Students walk out of McLean High School on Tuesday, Sept. 27, to protest the Youngkin administration’s school policies
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The student protests in Virginia have made national news.

“This is a president who supports the LGBTQI+ community and has been supporting that community for some time now as a vice president, as senator, and certainly as president now,” said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in response to a question about the protests during her daily press briefing. “And he . . . always is proud to speak out against the mistreatment of that community … We believe and he believes transgender youth should be allowed to be able to go to school freely, to be able to express themselves freely, to be able to have the protections that they need to be who they are.”

“When it comes to this community, he is a partner, and he is a strong ally, as well as the vice president,” Jean-Pierre stated.

Walkouts and rallies were held at middle and high schools in Arlington, Bedford, Buchanan, Chesterfield, Culpeper, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, Henrico, James City, Loudoun, Louisa, Montgomery, Powhatan, Prince George’s, Prince William, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Warren and York Counties as well as in the cities of Chesapeake, Newport News, Portsmouth, Richmond, Williamsburg and Winchester.

“Every parent wants Virginia’s laws to ensure children’s safety, freedom, and to encourage a vibrant and engaging learning experience. But the Virginia Department of Education is rejecting those shared values by advancing policies that will target LGBTQ kids for harassment and mistreatment simply because of who they are,” said Ebbin.

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Virginia’s new guidelines stipulates parental input on trans kids

“A trans youth who is not openly out to family effectively would be forcibly outed which would cause serious harm in most cases”

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During his back-to-school rally in Fairfax County, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin blasted Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) transgender and gender expansive student policy, called Regulation 2603. (Screenshot WJLA ABC 7)

RICHMOND – The Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Education released its new guidelines Friday that requires school administrators, faculty, and staff receive written permission from parents regarding embracing or recognizing a trans student’s gender identity.

With today’s release, the Department of Education’s Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools (the “2021 Model Policies”), adopted on March 4, 2021, was effectively repealed and replaced. The emphasis in Friday’s document was centered on ‘parental rights.’ The new set of guidelines also took aim at the 2021 guidance noting:

The 2021 Model Policies promoted a specific viewpoint aimed at achieving cultural and
social transformation in schools. The 2021 Model Policies also disregarded the rights of parents and ignored other legal and constitutional principles that significantly impact how schools educate students, including transgender students. With the publication of these 2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools (the “2022 Model Policies”), the Department hereby withdraws the 2021 Model Policies, which shall have no further force and effect
.”

The language reflects a campaign promise by Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin to respect parental rights in public education. LGBTQ+ advocates however, expressed alarm over the section reading:

The phrase ‘transgender student’ shall mean a public school student whose parent has requested in writing, due to their child’s persistent and sincere belief that his or her gender differs with his or her sex, that their child be so identified while at school,” the guidelines read.

Parents are in the best position to work with their children … to determine (a) what names, nicknames, and/or pronouns, if any, shall be used for their child by teachers and school staff while their child is at school, (b) whether their child engages in any counseling or social transition at school that encourages a gender that differs from their child’s sex, or (c) whether their child expresses a gender that differs with their child’s sex while at school,” the policy continues.”

A trans activist who has children enrolled in the Fairfax County School District, the state’s largest school system and who asked to not be identified, told the Blade that in effect, a trans youth who is not openly out to family effectively would be forcibly outed which would cause serious harm in most cases.

The other aspect the activist noted that the guidelines effectively require school staff and faculty to misgender trans students.

Excepts:

School Division] personnel shall refer to each student using only (i) the name that appears in the student’s official record, or (ii) if the student prefers, using any nickname commonly associated with the name that appears in the student’s official record.

School Division] personnel shall refer to each student using only the pronouns
appropriate to the sex appearing in the student’s official record – that is, male
pronouns for a student whose legal sex is male, and female pronouns for a
student whose legal sex is female
.

Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraphs (2) and (3) of this section,
[School Division] personnel shall refer to a student by a name other than one in
the student’s official record, or by pronouns other than those appropriate to the
sex appearing in the student’s official record, only if an eligible student or a
student’s parent has instructed [School Division] in writing that such other
name or other pronouns be used because of the student’s persistent and sincere
belief that the student’s gender differs from his or her sex.

Any written instruction from a parent or eligible student under paragraph (4) of
this section shall be memorialized in the student’s official record and subject to
the same retention, disclosure, and confidentiality requirements as the official
record itself. The legal name and sex of a student shall not be changed, even upon the written instruction of a parent or eligible student
.

The state’s governor has waged war on the LGBTQ+ community, focused especially on trans youth. At the beginning of September at a rally in Annandale, in the suburban Washington D.C. metropolitan region, Gov. Youngkin called for schools to out trans and gender nonconforming students to their parents and guardians, prompting a rebuke from GLSEN. 

The organization’s Executive Director Melanie Willingham-Jaggers condemned the Governor’s comments in an exclusive emailed statement to The Los Angeles Blade, writing: “It’s devastating to see politically motivated attempts to break trust between students and educators and to force educators to violate students’ privacy by outing them to guardians.” 

They added, “This kind of hostile school climate puts trans youth at greater risk of harassment, mental health challenges or discrimination. Transgender and nonbinary students need respect and autonomy, not additional scrutiny and policing of their gender identity in school.”

“They think that parents have no right to know what your child is discussing with their teacher or their counselor, particularly when some of the most important topics, most important topics that a child may want to discuss are being determined,” the Governor said during the rally.

“What’s their name? What pronoun will they use? How are they going to express their gender? This is a decision that bureaucrats in Fairfax County believe that they should be able to make without telling parents,” Gov. Youngkin said. 

Protecting students’ privacy is a core element of “A Guide for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students,” published by GLSEN and the ACLU. 

Equality Virginia on Thursday announced it will track whether school boards have implemented the Virginia Department of Education’s guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

Equality Virginia Executive Director Narissa S. Rahaman in a press release notes “almost half of Virginia’s K-12 students attend schools in divisions that have fully adopted VDOE’s model policies for the treatment of transgender students” since their issuance in 2020. 

“These policies, developed in accordance with evidence-based best practices, give teachers and administrators critical tools to create safe, inclusive and learning environments for all students,” said Rahaman. “School boards in every corner of our commonwealth have a unique and urgent opportunity to protect transgender students by adopting the model policies.”

Equality Virginia in its press release further noted the School Board Policy and Meeting Tracker will “provide parents, advocates and students information on local school board meetings, potential agenda items and opportunity for public comment, and whether the school district has adopted” the guidelines.

The other issue within the new set of guidelines the activist told the Blade, is that the language almost nullifies the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of then high school student Gavin Grimm who fought against his school policy on use of school restrooms and changing rooms.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Gloucester County, Virginia, School District’s policies that prohibited students from using bathrooms and locker rooms that did not correspond with their “biological gender” and denied them transcripts that correspond to their gender identity was unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June of 2021 declined to hear the case upholding the 4th Circuit ruling.

Additionally reporting by Christopher Kane and Michael K. Lavers

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Virginia school board votes 5-2 to adopt hate group ADF’s policy

A policy that requires transgender students to submit a request to use school bathrooms that align with their gender identity

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Hanover Schools parents and allies of transgender students (Photo Credit: ACLU of Virginia)

ASHLAND, Va. – In a closed door session the Hanover County School Board in suburban Richmond, Virginia, voted 5-2 to approve a policy that requires Hanover’s transgender students to submit a request to use school bathrooms that align with their gender identity and gives the school board the authority to approve or deny those requests.

In the policy approved Tuesday night, school staff and administrators can request a meeting with the student and their parents/guardians, and “will receive all relevant information, which may include:”

  • a statement from the student that, among other things, specifies their gender identity and how they have consistently, persistently and insistently expressed that identity
  • signed statements from the student’s personal physician, therapist or licensed counselor verifying that the student has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and/or that the student consistently and authentically expresses a binary gender identity
  • statements from the student’s parent or guardian
  • student disciplinary or criminal records
  • information related to the privacy and safety of other students
  • any other relevant information, including documents from other interested parties

The school board voted 4-3 last March to allow the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an anti-LGBTQ+ legal firm listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, to offer a free legal review of the school district’s policy regarding equal educational opportunities.

At the time then Board Chair Ola Hawkins provided the following statement:

The School Board voted last night to engage Alliance Defending Freedom for legal review of Policy 7-1.2 at no cost to HCPS. On behalf of the School Board, I do not have anything further to add to this other than what was discussed and decided upon.”

According to current Board Chair John F. Axselle III, the policy was an effort between the board, its attorney and counsel from ADF. 

Virginia lawmakers passed a state law in 2020 requiring all 133 of the state’s school districts to adopt policies consistent with or more comprehensive than the Virginia Department Of Education’s model policies before September 2021. In November of 2021, the Hanover County School Board struck down a measure that would have made bathrooms more accessible to trans students but did approve minor changes favoring trans kids.

In a 4-3 vote not to move forward, the board shot down a measure that would allow trans students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity, but did approve policy revisions that will allow for school officials to “use the name and gender consistent with the student’s gender identity,” upon request of the student and parent.

That decision led the Virginia ACLU to file a lawsuit against the board on behalf of five parents of transgender students.

Hanover Schools Attorney Lisa Seward said a U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board — in which Gavin Grimm, a trans man, sued the Gloucester County School Board after he was barred from using the boys restroom — would protect the current policy. 

The appeals court ruled that not letting Grimm use the correct restroom was unconstitutional and violated his rights under Title IX. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case earlier this year, leaving in place that ruling. 

Earlier this month  a coalition of the Commonwealth’s leading advocacy organizations for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) equality responded to Hanover County School Board’s (HCSB) Policy 7-1.7 Restroom and Locker Room policy, which was approved Tuesday.

“This is not just about bathrooms or locker rooms. It’s about the right of transgender students to exist in public spaces without having to justify or explain themselves,” said Breanna Diaz, Policy & Legislative Counsel at the ACLU of Virginia. “Yet, the Hanover County School Board’s proposed policy seeks to do just that by imposing an invasive policy that will deter youth from accessing school facilities. The school board must listen to Hanover families and oppose the proposed policy and immediately adopt a bathroom and locker room policy consistent with the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies.”

“The rights of transgender and non-binary students in Hanover County are not up for debate,” said Narissa S. Rahaman, Executive Director of Equality Virginia. “The Hanover County School Board’s unnecessary and discriminatory policy will lead to more harm for transgender and non-binary students in Hanover public schools.”

“The Hanover County NAACP continues to advocate for the full rights of all Hanover Students and teachers. Hanover has exhibited a pattern of refusing to be an inclusive community,” said Pat Hunter-Jordan, President of Hanover County NAACP. “In the 1950’s schools were closed rather than following the law to integrate. Rather than renaming schools to avoid further harm to students of color, we had to sue them for our rights. And yet, here we are again. Rather than allow our transgender student population their full rights, Hanover schools are wasting taxpayer money, once again in the court system.  We will continue to advocate until Justice is served and until inclusivity and equity are a normal part of Hanover culture and tradition.”

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Virginia

Virginia court rejects obscenity proceedings against LGBTQ books

“The First Amendment protects literary expression, even when some people find portions of the works difficult or objectionable”

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Circuit Court for the City of Virginia Beach (Photo Credit: City of Virginia Beach)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – The Circuit Court for the City of Virginia Beach rejected two petitions arguing that two LGBTQ+ themed books were obscene and illegal to sell or lend in the state of Virginia.

In its ruling the court found that the Virginia state statute pursuant to which the petitions were filed violated First Amendment free speech rights and the constitutional right to due process. Likewise, the Circuit Court vacated a lower court determination of probable cause for obscenity.

The proceedings were initiated pursuant to Virginia Code § 18.2-384—a law that has not been used for decades, but which purports to allow any individual to file a petition claiming that any book is obscene. Under the statute, a book could have been deemed obscene and its distribution could have been made criminal without any notice–much less an opportunity to be heard on the issue –to the countless bookstores, book lenders, and other distributors who would have been governed by the result.

The books being challenged through two separate obscenity proceedings in Virginia state court are Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, an autobiographical graphic novel about adolescence, gender and sexuality, and A Court of a Mist and Fury, a fantasy romance novel by Sarah J. K. Maas. Gender Queer was the most banned book in the United States in 2021, according to the American Library Association.

“We are pleased with the outcome of today’s proceedings,” said Matt Callahan, Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Virginia. “The First Amendment protects literary expression, even when some people find portions of the works difficult or objectionable. All people should be able to choose what they wish to read.”

The ACLU, the ACLU of Virginia, and Michael Bamberger of Dentons, and general counsel to Media Coalition, filed a motion challenging the proceedings on behalf of Prince Books, Read Books, One More Page Books, bbgb tales for kids, American Booksellers for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers Inc., Authors Guild, Inc., Freedom to Read Foundation, American Library Association, and Virginia Library Association.

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Virginia

Trans man in mental health crisis shot by Virginia police

“His death marks the third fatal shooting by the police of a transgender person recorded by HRC since 2020”

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Photo Credit: Fairfax County, Virginia Police Department

McLEAN, Va. – A Fairfax County Police Department officer on July 7 shot and killed a transgender man who family members say was having a mental health crisis inside the family home where he lived after the man, identified as Jasper Aaron Lynch, 26, lunged at three officers while wielding a wine bottle as a weapon and refused the officers commands to drop the bottle, according to a statement released by police.

Lynch’s parents released their own statement saying the use of deadly force was unnecessary and that the officers should have handled the incident “far differently.”

The police shooting incident and the release by Fairfax Police of body camera footage of the incident was widely reported in the news media.

But the news that Lynch was a transgender man did not surface until Aug. 24, when the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, released a statement disclosing that Lynch was trans and expressed support for his parents’ contention that the shooting was uncalled for.

“Aaron’s death marks the third fatal shooting by the police of a transgender person recorded by HRC since 2020,” the HRC statement says. “Transgender people, especially transgender people of color, are at increased risk of experiencing police brutality, even in the wake of other encountered violence,” the statement says.

In a detailed statement posted on their website, Fairfax Police say police involvement leading to the fatal shooting began shortly after 7 p.m. on July 7 when officers responded to the McLean home where Lynch lived with his parents and sister after receiving a call from a friend. The police statement says the friend said he was concerned for Lynch’s safety because he was throwing objects inside the home and “pacing.”

A police team arrived at the home a short time later that included an officer assigned to the police Crisis Intervention Team and a clinician from the Sharon Bulova Center for Community Health, according to the statement. It says arriving officers were told Lynch left the residence before they arrived and couldn’t be found. The police team left the scene but shortly after police received a second call at about 8:34 p.m. from a friend of Lynch’s saying Lynch had returned to the house and he was again acting erratically. A second police team was then dispatched to the house, the statement says.

(Screen capture via FCPD YouTube)

“This time, three crisis intervention trained officers arrived at the home and spoke to a family member on the scene,” the statement continues. “The officers found Lynch inside holding a bottle and an object, believed to be a large decorative wooden tribal mask,” the statement says, adding, “The officers attempted to de-escalate the situation with verbal commands inside the foyer of the home.”

The statement continues, “Lynch threw the mask at an officer and began to swing the bottle in striking motion. Two officers attempted to utilize their Electronic Control Weapons,” referring to police tasers, it says. “Lynch ran toward officers while swinging the bottle. One officer discharged his firearm, striking Lynch four times. Officers immediately rendered aid until fire and rescue personnel arrived. Lynch was pronounced deceased at the scene,” it says.

The police statement concludes by saying under department policy, the officers involved have “all been placed on restricted duty pending the outcome of an administrative investigation by our Internal Affairs Bureau. An independent review will also be conducted by the Police Auditor.”

Lynch’s parents, Patrick and Kathy Lynch, declare in their own statement released to the media but that did not disclose that their son was transgender, that Lynch was “experiencing a severe mental health crisis on July 7.”

Their statement adds, “He was scared and asked for both 911 calls that were made that day. We believe that the three police officers who answered the second 911 call could have, and should have, handled this far differently.”

The statement continues, “To respond to Aaron’s mental health crisis by shooting him at all, let alone multiple times, cannot be justified. We recognize that, at times, police officers face grave and unknown dangers in the line of duty, but that was not the case for that call at our home regarding our son.”

A spokesperson for the Fairfax Police couldn’t immediately be reached on Friday to determine the status of the Internal Affairs investigation into the fatal police shooting of Lynch.    

The full text of the Fairfax Police statement on the Lynch shooting and a link to the police body worn camera video of the shooting can be accessed here:

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Virginia’s Gov. Youngkin will force teachers to out their LGBTQ+ students

“I firmly believe that teachers and schools have an obligation to make sure that parents are well informed”

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Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin (Screenshot/YouTube CBS News)

RICHMOND – Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin affirmed his support on Tuesday for measures that would require teachers to notify parents of their children’s sexual orientation or gender identity, regardless of the students’ consent. 

The move was justified under the pretext of protecting “parental rights,” a specious argument that has given cover to policies enacted by conservative legislatures across the country that target LGBTQ+ people, including students, in public schools. 

“With regards to informing parents with most important decisions about their children…Parents should be at the forefront of all of these discussions,” Youngkin told WJLA News. “And I firmly believe that teachers and schools have an obligation to make sure that parents are well informed about what’s happening in their kids’ lives.”

Critics, however, charge that coming out is an intensely personal act, that taking away a student’s ability to do so on their own terms can be psychologically damaging, intrusive, and hurtful. In some cases, for students whose parents or guardians might harbor anti-LGBTQ+ views, it can be dangerous. 

Lambda Legal reports between 20 and 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+ and are “frequently rejected by their families or fleeing abusive long-term placements.” Forcibly outing young LGBTQ+ people can mean they will be forced to live on the streets. 

Notwithstanding Youngkin’s efforts to portray himself as a moderate when campaigning for governor, Tuesday’s statement follows a series of extreme rightward moves he has made with respect to education policies in the state that concern LGBTQ+ youth and subject matter. 

Florida’s controversial “Parental Rights in Education” bill, which critics termed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, was similarly premised on the right of parents to control the material to which their children will have access in school. 

In reality, the overbroad legislation prohibits any classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity for students in certain grades, which could potentially lead to disciplinary action against a teacher who mentions their same-sex spouse. 

Youngkin has similarly taken aim at educational materials in public schools, such as by signing into law SB656, which requires parental notification of nebulously defined “sexually explicit content.” 

Just after taking office in January, he set up a “tip line” to solicit comments from Virginia parents on “divisive practices” or the inclusion of curricula and materials they may consider objectionable. 

Plaintiffs in multiple lawsuits, the most recent of which was filed on Monday, accuse Youngkin of violating public records laws by his refusal to share “tip line” emails with news media organizations.

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