Respect Equality

Virginia students begin walkouts over Youngkin transgender policy

Students from more than 100 Virginia high schools walked out of class Tuesday morning through the afternoon.

Story at a glance

  • Thousands of Virginia students left their classrooms Tuesday morning and afternoon to protest a set of model policies that would roll back certain protections for transgender youth in the state.

  • Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) administration this month released draft policies that would bar transgender students from using the restroom that matches their gender identity and require parents to consent to their child changing their name or pronouns at school.

  • A public comment period on the model policies began Sep. 26 and will run through Oct. 26. At least 17,000 comments have already been collected.

Thousands of Virginia students walked out of their classrooms Tuesday to protest Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) proposed model transgender policies that would restrict which restrooms the state’s transgender students are allowed to use and would require parents to consent to their child changing their name or pronouns at school.

The draft policies published earlier this month have been criticized for singling out transgender youth, who are already more likely than lesbian, gay and bisexual young people to report poor mental health and less likely to identify their home or school as a gender-affirming space.

Several Virginia school districts have released statements voicing concerns about the new model policies and have promised to protect transgender students through enforcement of existing nondiscrimination laws. Students from more than 100 Virginia schools last week announced plans to walk out of class Tuesday morning through the afternoon to protest the policies.

“We decided to hold these walkouts as kind of a way to … disrupt schools and essentially have students be aware of what’s going on,” Natasha Sanghvi, a northern Virginia high school senior who helped organize the walkouts, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

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The new model policies would replace existing measures adopted by former Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) administration that allow transgender students to use school facilities like restrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity and requires teachers to accept a transgender student’s name and pronouns without consent from the student’s family.

Sanghvi told the AP that the current policies have helped students across Virginia feel affirmed in their gender identities at school, and repealing them would have the potential to harm “every single queer student in the state of Virginia.”

Footage captured by other outlets show crowds of students protesting across northern Virginia, the Richmond and Hampton Roads regions and several smaller districts in rural areas of the state. Some students waved Progress Pride flags and homemade signs supporting transgender rights.

In a statement to Changing America, Macaulay Porter, a spokeswoman for Youngkin, said under the proposed guidelines, Virginia schools will be able to accommodate the requests of children and their families. but only when parents are part of the process.

The current policies from Northam’s administration have drawn criticism from parents and some school boards for “removing” parents from the equation.

“Parents should be a part of their children’s lives, and it’s apparent through the public protests and on-camera interviews that those objecting to the guidance already have their parents as part of that conversation,” Porter said. “While students exercise their free speech today, we’d note that these policies state that students should be treated with compassion and schools should be free from bullying and harassment. ”

A public comment period on Youngkin’s model transgender policies began Sep. 26 and will run through Oct. 26. At least 17,000 comments have already been logged, many in opposition. The state Department of Education will then review the responses and the state superintendent will either approve or deny the policies.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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