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Alexandria City Council decries Governor Youngkin’s anti-trans schools proposal

The Alexandria City Council, on Wednesday, says that Governor’s Glenn Youngkin’s proposed new policies restricting transgender bathroom and pronoun use stigmatize and undermine children, and puts their lives at risk.

In a letter to the Virginia Department of Education, Council backed the position of Alexandria City Public Schools to essentially ignore Youngkin’s proposed new rules, which go into effect after a 30-day public comment period on October 27.

The Democrat-led Council said that Youngkin (a Republican) has brought Virginia into the fold of “states across the U.S. seeking to adopt discriminatory and harmful restrictions on LGBTQ+ students,” and that it undermines ACPS and contributes to “the already high number of LGBTQ+ students who attempt suicide.”

“The proposed policies issued September 16 remove protections for transgender and non-binary students in Virginia’s public schools, stigmatizing them and undermining their dignity, and the policies put vulnerable students’ lives at risk,” the city said in the letter, which was approved in Council’s Wednesday night (September 28)  meeting at City Hall.

The letter continued, “While the Governor’s policies target, demean and diminish LGBTQ+ youth, particularly transgender and non-binary students, Alexandria City leaders and community members will support, uplift, and provide a safe, nurturing environment for LGBTQ+ youth so that they can flourish.”

Last week, the city’s interim superintendent says that Youngkin’s proposal won’t be a distraction as the school system plans to continue its “gender-affirming policies.”

While students are not required to wear gender-neutral clothes, the new rules state:

  • School division employees must refer to students with the pronouns “appropriate to the sex appearing in the student’s official record”
  • “The appropriate participation” in school programs separated by sex
  • Overnight travel accommodations, locker rooms, and other intimate spaces used for school-related activities and events shall be based on sex
  • Students shall use bathrooms that correspond to his or her sex, except to the extent that federal law otherwise requires
  • Single-user bathrooms and facilities should be made available in accessible areas and provided with appropriate signage, indicating accessibility for all students

Mayor Justin Wilson said that Youngkin’s policy changes are “lawless” and not backed by education experts.

“This proposed policy is not backed by any science, by any best practice, any recommended authority on the welfare of children,” Wilson said. “This is a politically driven policy proposal, not a child-driven policy proposal.”

City Councilman Kirk McPike said that the matter cuts to the heart of the city.

“This is appropriate for the Council to weigh in,” McPike said. “We know that there are many trans students in Virginia schools, including here in Alexandria. They deserve to have their schools to be a place of safety and acceptance. I want them to know that their local elected leaders are on their side. We have your back and will never stop fighting for you.”

Council Member Canek Aguirre said that it’s “absolutely ridiculous” that the city has been put in this position.

“The irony is not lost on me,” Aguirre said. “When there’s a party (Republicans) that says they are about less government, and we consistently see that they are reaching into the furthest parts of our own homes and personal lives, it’s just absolutely disgusting to me.”

The full letter from City Council to VDOE is below the jump.

Virginia Department of Education

Office of Policy: Department of Policy and Communications
Office of the Superintendent: Executive Director, Parental Engagement P.O. Box 2120
Richmond, Virginia 23218-2120
[email protected]

Dear Madam or Sir:
Please accept the City of Alexandria’s comment on Governor Youngkin’s “2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools.” The City of Alexandria supports the Alexandria City Public Schools’ (ACPS) position, which is to continue to follow ACPS policy and practice respecting individual rights and protecting students from discrimination due to gender expression, gender identity, sexual harassment, and transgender status.

The proposed policies issued September 16 remove protections for transgender and non-binary students in Virginia’s public schools, stigmatizing them and undermining their dignity, and the policies put vulnerable students’ lives at risk.

The Alexandria Human Rights Code includes protection in education on the bases of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and transgender status. The Alexandria Human Rights Commission has expressed concern over the Governor’s new model policies, citing conflict with anti- discrimination laws; potential danger to students from abuse, homelessness, and suicide; inconsistent and confusing mandatory provisions regarding students’ names; the undermining of local authority; and creation of an environment in public schools antithetical to learning and nurturing.

The City’s LGBTQ+ Task Force, with input from SCAN of Northern Virginia and Safe Space NOVA, provides context to these concerns, explaining that the “proposal turns back the clock on years of progress and is directly contrary to the City’s current, successful, and affirming policies.” Specifically, “the proposed policies seek to restrict which bathrooms transgender and non- binary students can use, force students to participate in events, sports and other school activities based on their sex assigned at birth and hinder the ability of teachers and staff to offer any support, without also outing the student to parents.”

Further, as the Task Force explains, the legal name and sex of a student cannot be changed “even upon written instruction of a parent or eligible student” without an official legal document or court order. Absent full support from both parents, teachers and other school officials can only refer to a student by the name and pronouns associated with their sex at birth. Even with paperwork and parental support, teachers and staff would be empowered to ignore a student’s name and pronouns if they feel doing so would violate their religious beliefs. This puts the wishes of adults over the needs and safety of children.

With these proposed policies, Virginia joins a growing number of states across the U.S. seeking to adopt discriminatory and harmful restrictions on LGBTQ+ students. Targeting some of the most vulnerable children in our schools not only undermines their ability to pursue an education, but it also undermines our educational system as a whole and contributes to the already high number of LGBTQ+ students who attempt suicide. The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous year, including more than half of transgender and non-binary youth. However, LGBTQ youth who had access to LGBTQ-affirming spaces — including schools — reported lower rates of attempting suicide than those who did not.

The proposed 2022 policies received no public input while being drafted, were not developed in accordance with evidence-based best practices, are directly contrary to the Code of Virginia, would force transgender and non-binary students to be out to their parents, and will put them at risk for domestic violence, homelessness, and discrimination in all areas of life including at school. We urge you not to implement them.

The City of Alexandria is one of 110 cities in the U.S. to receive the maximum possible score of 100% on the 2021 Municipal Equality Index (MEI), a national assessment by the Human Rights Campaign of LBGTQ+ equality in municipal policies, laws, and services. For the second consecutive year, the City of Alexandria achieved this maximum score based on criteria including non-discrimination laws, the City as an employer, law enforcement, local leadership’s public positions on equality, and how inclusive the City’s laws, policies and services are for the LGBTQ+ community.

While the Governor’s policies target, demean and diminish LGBTQ+ youth, particularly transgender and non-binary students, Alexandria City leaders and community members will support, uplift, and provide a safe, nurturing environment for LGBTQ+ youth so that they can flourish.

VTY,
Mayor Justin Wilson & Members of City Council

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