Loudoun School Board Reviews Transgender Student Policy

The School Board’s Pupil Services Committee met virtually last night to discuss the proposed policy for the rights of transgender and gender-expansive students.

The proposed policy was developed to comply with the Virginia Department of Education’s mandate that school divisions protect learners of all gender identities. Per the new state requirement, Loudoun County must implement a policy before the start of the 2021-2022 school year. 

The policy’s most notable and contentious aspect is that students will be permitted to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identities.

“It’s about time Virginia gets a policy to protect these students,” said Harris Mahedavi (Ashburn). “We need to put a structure in place that protects the kids from being marginalized.”

As recently as 2019, 68% of transgender students in Virginia were prohibited from using the bathroom aligned with their gender identity. Advocates said this policy will be life-altering for many members of the LGBTQ community in Loudoun County schools.

However, several parents made public comments expressing concerns about student privacy, particularly in common areas of restrooms.

“The girls wear full coverings their whole lives and for them to have a mixed bathroom is very traumatizing,” said one parent, who identified himself as a member of the Islamic community.

Another parent suggested creating a separate bathroom to meet the special needs of trans and non-binary students, although board members worry that might bring unwanted visibility to members of the trans community.

The proposed policy for Loudoun County goes beyond the model developed by the Virginia Department of Education in some ways, such as addressing athletics. Ahead of the school year, transgender and gender-expansive students will have a planning meeting with administrators to discuss their needs.

“Whenever a child has a need for additional accommodations, we will develop a supportive plan of action for that child,” said Asia Jones, assistant superintendent of Pupil Services.

Jones and several committee members acknowledged that in some older school buildings, adjusting to the policy will be a challenge. One suggestion was adding additional privacy stalls to restrooms and locker rooms.

The policy also allows students to go by their chosen names and pronouns.

Students of all gender identities will be permitted to participate in corresponding inter scholastic, extracurricular and athletics programs.

John Beatty (Catoctin) expressed reservations about the policy.

“We have an athletics policy in our code and I’m concerned we are overstepping our bounds,” he said.

Jones responded that the proposed athletics component is compliant with federal law, Title IX.

The policy will be presented to the School Board on June 8. Administrators said this will allow enough time for the policy to be adopted before the start of the next school year.

3 thoughts on “Loudoun School Board Reviews Transgender Student Policy

  • 2021-05-21 at 2:59 pm
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    I listened to the public comments and was supposed to do one myself but was out of town and missed the meeting. I think that the individuals from ADAMS community that spoke were very polite about their concerns and I would like to encourage LCPS to expand on that more. Cultural concerns and sensitivities must also be addressed in a disputed policy.

    On the ADAMS website, their mission statement is: “To provide religious, social, and educational services to enable the Muslim community to fulfill its responsibilities and contribute to the betterment of society by embodying and exemplifying leadership and excellence and fostering peace.”

    Their points regarding the sensitivities of those that wear hijabs and cover their bodies should also be respected in the school buildings. I hope we have further discussions with this community in the Equity Committee to understand more on how we can meet in the middle. Some cultures are extremely modest and that deserves to be respected as well as transgender students. Modesty and inclusion seem to be at the heart of this policy. I hope it is less about politics and more about the sensitivities of vulnerable students and access to making sure they feel “welcome, included, and affirmed” at LCPS.

    Quite frankly, I think we need to listen to the community more than judge others that might not think or feel the same way as others. Nobody deserves to be marginalized and not everyone wants to stand out as different. It is a respect thing and I look forward to more dialogue and productivity on a very vulnerable subject. I would also like to hear from the students, particularly the transgender students, on how they will feel the most comfortable. Isn’t that the heart of the issue also? Listening to the needs of our students? And providing a safe environment to learn and thrive? We need to work more on this. I hope there can be a focus group to meet in the middle to help address concerns too. Seems like the kindest way to help people come together is to include one another and not exclude one another. But modesty in our vulnerable times is also important.

    This gives me something to think about. Thank you.

    • 2021-05-21 at 3:22 pm
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      All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center (sorry, forgot to include what it stands for).

      I would encourage input on how we can best listen and include our students in public education regarding these vulnerable populations.

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