New state policies regarding the treatment of LGBTQ students could have taken effect this week — but are still working through some red tape.
However, Virginia Department of Education spokesperson Charles Pyle said at least one commenter during the 30-day public comment period stated they believed the policies went against state law. This automatically requires the department to delay the new policy for an additional 30 days because it’s required to respond to the commenter’s assertion.
The department will subsequently hold off on implementing the new policies until at least Nov. 26 — and Pyle said it could be longer.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow also wants to review the feedback the department received, Pyle said. More than 71,000 comments were submitted.
The proposed policies would require school staff to obtain written permission from a student’s parents before letting a student change their name or pronouns. It also states that staff cannot be forced to use a student’s preferred name or pronouns if it violates their constitutional rights.
“The First Amendment guarantees religious freedom and prohibits compelling others to affirm ideas that may be contrary to their personal religious beliefs,” the document states.
The policies also would require students to use bathrooms that correspond with their biological sex “except to the extent that federal law otherwise requires.”
Breanna Diaz, policy and legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, said she hopes the department will use the additional time to rethink the policy. All youth deserve the right to thrive in school and feel respected, she said.
“The impact would be devastating for some students,” she said, adding that many LGBTQ youth do not come from supportive homes and depend on school to be a safe space.
Although the proposal garnered plenty of attention, and sparked student protests, Benjamin Melusky doesn’t expect it will be at the forefront of most voters’ minds when they head to the polls next month.
Policies for LGBTQ students, or any other education-related issue, will likely be taking a backseat during this election cycle, said Melusky, assistant professor of political science at Old Dominion University.
“The big thing that is really up there for the vast majority of Americans right now is the economy,” he said. “That’s driving so many of the races across the country.”
Melusky said education was a major issue for voters during last year’s gubernatorial campaign, with Glenn Youngkin often stressing the importance of parental rights on the campaign trail.
But between economic concerns and the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which has elevated abortion issues, the professor doesn’t think school policies will be a major factor this year.
“I just think (education issues) are being washed out,” he said. “There’s only so much air in the room.”
Katie King, email@example.com