Virginia Beach will comply with the state’s recommendations to ensure the protection of transgender students.
All Virginia school districts were required to adopt such policies before the start of the school year, but the region’s largest district started the year last week without comprehensive policies in place.
The policy was approved Tuesday night on a 7-3 vote, with Jennifer Franklin, Laura Hughes and Vicky Manning opposed. Carolyn Weems wasn’t present for the vote.
Before the meeting started, a group of about 100 gathered for a rally and prayer. Like at the last several meetings, several dozen people showed up to speak on the topic. Public comment continued to be largely focused on concerns about bathroom use and parental authority in cases where students and parents disagree about the child’s gender.
“All we are asking is for you to consider how much you’re taking away from parents,” Lindsey Bohon said.
Some speakers repeated inaccurate claims that transgender students represent a threat to cisgender students. Research has shown that transgender students face higher risks of assault in school. Several compared transgenderism to a disease like anorexia or bulimia.
“It would be very wrong if they said you have to call that person fat because they see themselves as fat,” pastor Richard Alan Pickens said.
One speaker intentionally misgendered Gavin Grimm, the Gloucester alumnus who successfully sued that school district over his treatment as a student. Grimm was the first speaker of the night, asking the board to ensure trans students have the same access to education their peers do.
Two students addressed the board, including one transgender student who spoke so quietly the chair had to coax him to speak up. He apologized for his nervousness. Another student told the board how happy she’s seen her friends when teachers have affirmed their identities.
The board’s discussion was tense, as many of their debates are. Franklin said she supports the LGBT community but voted against the policy because she didn’t like how it directs the superintendent to develop the regulations that will spell out how the model guidance looks in practice. Hughes and Manning objected on similar grounds.
Manning said she thought the policy was illegal and encouraged people to challenge it in court. “The only other reason I could find that we would do this is political expediency,” Hughes said. “And that’s not a good reason to do this.”
”Well, some would suggest that we’re doing this for the students,” Chairwoman Carolyn Rye said.
Board member Sharon Felton said she saw parallels between today’s debate and her experience as a Black woman.
“I know what separate and equal means. I know what it looks like. Bathrooms for blacks and bathrooms for whites. I lived that,” she said. “These are students.”
Sara Gregory, 757-469-7484, email@example.com