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.