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BLOCK GOV. YOUNGKIN’S ATTACK ON TRANSGENDER STUDENTS

Governor Youngkin plans to restrict the rights of transgender students in public schools throughout the state. His administration has released new “Model Policies” that would in many cases prevent schools from recognizing students’ gender identities. Following a thirty-day public-comment period beginning on September 26, the new rules are expected to take effect on October 27, 2022. Speak out now against the adoption of these rules targeting transgender students and help stop Governor Youngkin in his tracks.

The Governor’s Model Policies would require students’ parents to submit legal documentation and a formal request to their student’s school before the student could adopt a name or gender in class that differs from their birth certificate. The policy changes would require a student to use the restroom that corresponds to the gender they were assigned at birth. The proposed policies would also require schools to notify parents if the student requests that teachers use a different name or gender for them at school.

Transgender students deserve the same rights and freedoms as everyone else – the ability to be recognized for who they are and how they perceive themselves. Youngkin’s Model Policies would constrict transgender students’ rights to present their true selves to the world. Youngkin claims he is protecting parents’ rights, but he is only promoting the interests of parents who oppose their children’s identities. He is limiting the rights of parents who support those identities, as these parents would for the first time have to present legal documentation to ensure that their children’s gender identity and choice of name would be recognized at school. And Youngkin is eviscerating the rights of transgender students themselves.

Adoption of anti-transgender laws and regulations can inflict significant, measurable, and immediate harm to the health and mental well-being of transgender youth; it is not a minor adjustment to obscure rules. A Washington Post survey shows that Youngkin’s proposals have already struck fear and distress in transgender students throughout the state. Other studies show that anti-transgender laws and regulations increase already high rates of depression and suicide among transgender youth, rates which have already been increasing along with the recent wave of anti-transgender legislation nationally. One report found that in 2021, 42% of transgender youth aged 13-24 years old seriously considered suicide. The proposed Model Policies reflect a cold indifference to the well-being of transgender students and a willingness to inflict cruelty on them for political gain in the culture wars Governor Youngkin so energetically pursues.

Three of the changes to be imposed by Governor Youngkin’s Model Policies have been directly correlated with rates of attempted suicide among transgender youth. Respect for a youth’s pronouns, the ability to change name and gender on legal documents, and access to spaces that affirm their sexual orientation have all been shown to lower rates of attempted suicide among transgender youth. The Governor’s Model Policies would reverse current Virginia regulations protecting all of those rights in school settings.

Many legal experts say that Youngkin’s proposals violate Virginia state law, which bans discrimination based on gender identity, and federal law, which bars discrimination based on sex in any educational institution that receives federal funds. The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals adopted this interpretation of federal law when it decided in 2020 against a Virginia school district’s anti-trans bathroom rules in Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board. A legal challenge to Youngkin’s new Model Policies is likely, but it would be far better for transgender youth if the new Model Policies are never adopted.

The thirty-day public comment for Youngkin’s proposed Model Policies begins on Monday, September 26, 2022, on Virginia’s Regulatory Town Hall website, The Model Policies proposal will be listed under the Department of Education, the state body that plans to adopt them. Please submit a comment telling the Virginia Department of Education not to adopt the new Model Policies, then submit the same comment directly to the Governor at his website: https://www.governor.virginia.gov/communicating-with-the-governors-office/

I urge you to protect the well-being of Virginia’s transgender youth and honor their legal rights by withdrawing the new Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students announced on September 16, 2022. Restore the Model Policies previously in place, which respect the rights and interests of transgender students.

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