Virginia students plan walkouts to protest Youngkin’s transgender student policies

Story at a glance

  • Virginia public school students across the state plan to walk out of their classrooms on Tuesday to protest new model policies that aim to roll back certain protections for transgender students.

  • The Virginia Department of Education this month released proposed policies to prevent transgender students from using restrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity and require parents to consent to their child changing their name or pronouns at school.

  • Student walkouts will begin Tuesday morning and continue through the late afternoon.

Virginia students from more than 20 public school districts across the state plan to walk out of class on Tuesday to protest a slate of proposed policies introduced by Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) administration that would roll back certain protections for transgender students.

The Virginia Department of Education earlier this month unveiled a new set of model transgender policies for the year that require public school students to use facilities like restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their sex assigned at birth. Teachers under the new policies would need written permission from a student’s parents to address the student using a different name or different pronouns or allow the student to change their name on school forms.

The proposed policies drew sharp backlash from LGBTQ+ advocates, who said the measures deliberately “stigmatize and isolate” vulnerable youth. Several Virginia school districts have said they are concerned about the policies and have promised to protect transgender students through enforcement of existing nondiscrimination policies.

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Early last week, students from more than 100 Virginia schools announced their intent to walk out of their classrooms on Tuesday to protest the administration’s model policies, demanding that the state Education Department revoke the draft policies and individual school districts reject them.

“As a closeted student, my friends and I are terrified that we won’t be able to come home if these proposed guidelines go through,” one student, whose name was not shared, said in a media release from the Pride Liberation Project, which organized the coordinated walkouts.

“We just want to be ourselves at school, without worrying about whether we’ll be subject to abuse or harassment,” they said.

The Pride Liberation Project, a coalition of more than 500 LGBTQ+ student advocates, on Instagram last week said the adoption of Youngkin’s model policies would be “the single biggest loss for Queer rights in Virginia in years.”

“The original model policies were the cornerstone of almost every Queer protection that existed for LGBTQIA+ students,” the group wrote, referring to policies adopted by former Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) administration that allowed transgender students to use school facilities consistent with their gender identity and required teachers to accept a transgender student’s name and pronouns without consent from the student’s family. “These proposed guidelines are essentially taking that cornerstone and using it to undermine our rights.”

Virginia’s education department this month said Northam’s model transgender policies “disregarded the rights of parents” and ignored certain legal and constitutional principles that impact how schools are able to educate their students.

Student walkouts across Virginia will begin Tuesday morning and continue through the late afternoon, according to a schedule released to media.

A public comment period on Youngkin’s model transgender policy began Sep. 26 and will run through Oct. 26.

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