Gov. Youngkin Finalizes Guidance Protecting Parental Rights
On Tuesday, the Virginia Department of Education released finalized guidance for educators in the state that strengthens the rights of parents to direct the care of their children with respect to transgender identities, pronouns and names, counseling, and social transitioning while at school. Experts are hailing the policies as a further achievement by Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) in restoring parental rights in the Old Dominion.
The 16-page “Model Policies” document finalizes the proposed policies that were first released in September of last year, which replaced former Governor Ralph Northam’s (D) policies that ordered schools to “affirm LGBTQ+ students” and largely ignored parents who wished to guide their children through gender dysphoria according to their beliefs. “This is about doing what’s best for the child,” Youngkin told the Associated Press. “And oh, by the way, also recognizing that we need to ensure the privacy and dignity and respect of all children and all parents in the school system. And that’s what I think we have ... very carefully constructed here.”
The finalized guidance is a clear policy win and a campaign promise fulfilled for Youngkin, who rode the hotly contested issue of parental rights in schools to a gubernatorial victory in 2021 after Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe infamously declared, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach” during a debate.
The guidance notes under its “Guiding Principles” section that “Parents have the right to instill and nurture values and beliefs for their own children and make decisions concerning their children’s education and upbringing in accordance with their customs, faith, and family culture.” It goes on to state that the 14th Amendment, three Supreme Court decisions, and Virginia state law all undergird this “fundamental right.”
With regard to parental notification of their child’s gender identity at school, the guidance instructs that “No policy, guidance, training, or other written material issued by the [School Division] may encourage or instruct teachers to conceal material information about a student from the student’s parent, including information related to gender.”
The guidance further stipulates that bathrooms, locker rooms, overnight travel accommodations, and other intimate spaces must be separated by biological sex, except where modifications are required by federal law. In situations where transgender-identifying students are required by law to access sex-segregated facilities opposite of their biological sex, the guidance states that parents must be given an “opt out” option so that their child is “given access to alternative facilities that promote the child’s privacy and safety.” It also specifies that “Single-user bathrooms and facilities should be made available in accessible areas and provided with appropriate signage, indicating accessibility for all students.”
For athletic programs separated by biological sex, the guidance states that “the appropriate participation of students shall be determined by sex rather than gender or gender identity,” with exceptions given when required by federal law.
“We are pleased that Governor Youngkin has worked to fulfill his campaign pledge to affirm the right of parents to raise their children without government interference,” said Dr. Todd Gathje, vice president of Government Relations for The Family Foundation.
Meg Kilgannon, senior fellow for Education Studies at Family Research Council, also commended the guidance as a positive step forward for parental rights.
“Parents are in charge again in Virginia schools when it comes to decisions about ‘gender,’” she told The Washington Stand. “Every child is born in the right body. No child can be born in the wrong body. It is profoundly sad that so many are caught up in the lie that your body must be altered to reflect a delusion; it’s even worse when this happens in childhood, but tragically public schools are often complicit in, or even instigate, the lie. We are grateful that the Youngkin administration has worked to prevent secrets being kept from parents about their own children.”
Kilgannon went on to note that “these guidelines also protect teachers who don’t want to keep secrets from parents and know that children are best educated and safest when schools and parents work together to educate children.”
“When I first learned about this phenomenon in schools in 2015, I was completely astonished,” she related. “It was clear then and is still true today that well-meaning people, parents, teachers, administrators, counselors, and even doctors are terribly wrong and getting bad information. We need to pray about this and work in whatever way we can to make it clear that we do not agree: children do not need ‘gender transition procedures,’ new names, or pronouns.”
“These guidelines are a great start to rolling back this agenda,” Kilgannon concluded. “We are grateful for them, but know there is much more work to do.”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.