Equality Loudoun Calls on the Commonwealth to Halt Proceedings
October 25, 2022
LOUDOUN COUNTY, VA — In accordance with the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Equality Loudoun has formally filed an objection to the “2022 Model Policies” proposed by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) in accordance with the Code of Virginia § 2.2-4002.1. Pursuant to subsection C, if a written comment is received during a public comment period asserting that the guidance document is contrary to state law or regulation, or that the document should not be exempted from the provisions of this chapter, the effective date of the guidance document by the agency shall be delayed for an additional 30-day period. Under this provision, we are calling on the Virginia Department of Education to immediately halt the implementation of this policy for 30 days, issue a review, and file a formal written response to our objection, citing the following:
VDOE is not using the proper procedure to adopt the 2022 Model Policies. Because all Virginia school boards must set policies that are consistent with them, they set legally binding requirements and are not a guidance document but rather a regulation. Therefore, the expedited process that VDOE is using for guidance documents under Virginia Code § 2.2-4002.1 is not appropriate. Instead, VDOE must follow the more robust notice and comment requirements of the Virginia Administrative Process Act for regulations.
In addition, the 2022 Model Policies do not follow the requirements of Virginia Code § 22.1-23.3. That statute empowers VDOE to adopt “model policies concerning the treatment of transgender students in public elementary and secondary schools that address common issues regarding transgender students in accordance with evidence-based best practices.” However, some of the provisions in the 2022 Model Policies (such as the nondiscrimination and anti-bullying provisions) do not specifically address transgender students at all, and VDOE provides no evidence to show that any of the provisions in the 2022 Model Policies are best practices for the treatment for transgender students. Moreover, VDOE does not refute or even address the substantial evidence cited by VDOE in support of the 2021 Model Policies.
Equality Loudoun objects to the Virginia Department of Education proposed “2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students in Virginia’s Public Schools” (“2022 Model Policies”). We believe that, as VDOE found in adopting the “2021 Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools” (“2021 Model Policies”), that transgender students may experience rejection as well as criticism that affects their emotional health and academic achievement because of societal prejudice and lack of awareness or understanding.
This, VDOE found, could lead to adverse mental health outcomes, harassment, lower academic performance, suicidal ideation, and homelessness. The 2022 Model Policies roll back many of the protections for transgender students VDOE adopted in 2021. We believe this is misguided and dangerous, given unique risks that transgender children face.
For these reasons, Equality Loudoun believes that the proposed 2022 Model Policies should be withdrawn, and at a minimum, VDOE is required to delay their implementation as required by Virginia Code § 2.2-4002.1.C. Equality Loudoun has issued its formal objection in the VDOE Public Comment Portal, via direct email to the Virginia Department of Education, and in a certified letter postmarked prior to the closure of the public comment period.
We await a response from the administration as well as the proper issuance of such guidance in accordance with best practices, medical guidelines, and the laws of the great Commonwealth of Virginia.