Opposition Grows to Virginia’s Model Policies for Transgender Students in Schools

Aug 28, 2023 | State Standards

The Commonwealth’s Attorney for Fairfax County, Virginia has joined the growing opposition to the Youngkin Administration’s Model Policies for Transgender Students. The Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney released a strong statement publicly opposing the new Model Policies regarding the treatment of transgender students in Virginia’s public schools. The controversial new state guidance is a sharp departure from previous policies released by the prior administration.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano stated he disapproves of the new Model Policies because they:

  • prevent transgender students from accessing school bathrooms and athletic facilities that accord with their gender identity
  • prohibit teachers from using a students’ preferred name or pronoun without a parent’s explicit approval, and
  • prohibit school districts from protecting students against forced “outing” to their parents.

He declares upfront that the “model policies for trans students make Virginia’s students less safe,” then strongly endorses the decision of Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia’s largest school division, to refuse to follow the model policies.

And he challenges the “thin legal cover” that Virginia Attorney General Miyares has given to “transparent discrimination.” CA Descano agrees with the ACLU’s characterization that Virginia’s new policies, “at best, invite discrimination; at worst, require it.”

In a statement released last month, the ACLU of Virginia, for its part, identified tensions between the state Model Policies and federal and state law, including the landmark case, Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board.

School divisions across Virginia have split so far on whether to adopt the Model Policies. Three prominent school divisions quickly announced they will not follow the new Model Policies. In addition to Fairfax County Public Schools, Arlington Public Schools and Richmond County Public Schools also announced their opposition. Spotsylvania County and Roanoke County adopted the policies. Most school divisions have not made a decision yet. The Model Policies lack an explicit mechanism for enforcement.