A new draft for "model policies" within Virginia's public schools was released Friday, designed to replace those put in place in 2021 by former Gov. Ralph Northam for transgender and nonbinary students. Per WRIC, the new guidelines from the state's Department of Education under GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin mandate that while schools should strive to treat such students "with respect, compassion, and dignity" when it comes to how they wish to be identified, school personnel are to refer to a student only by the name that's listed for them in the school's official records—or a "nickname commonly associated with the name"—and that school staffers are not to do otherwise unless parents submit legal paperwork authorizing any name changes.
The same goes for pronoun use, which the guidelines state must be "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." And even if parents do submit such paperwork for their child, school personnel or other students can't be made to use the name or pronouns the child prefers if it would violate others' "constitutionally protected rights" to "free speech." Schools also may not "encourage or instruct teachers to conceal material information about a student from the student's parent, including information related to gender," per the guidelines—which the Washington Post notes could end up forcing a teacher to out a student to their parents.
Schools must adopt these guidelines, or ones that are "more comprehensive," after a 30-day comments period that starts on Sept. 26. The policies also cover access for transgender students to restrooms and locker rooms and their participation in sports and other activities. The new guidelines accuse Northam's former ones of trying to achieve "cultural and social transformation in schools" and "[disregarding] the rights of parents." While Youngkin's conservative allies praised the move, Democratic critics slammed it, calling it "cruel" and "not at all evidence based." "If enacted these policies will harm Virginia children," Del. Marcus Simon, one of the co-sponsors of the Northam guidelines, tweeted. "Stop bullying kids to score political points." (Read more transgender stories.)