Students at some 100 Virginia public middle and high schools staged walk-outs Tuesday to protest Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) model policies that would require parents’ consent prior to allowing children to adopt new gender identities at school.
High school senior Natasha Sanghvi told NBC 4 in Washington, DC, Fairfax County-based LGBTQ activist group Pride Liberation Project helped organize students’ protest efforts.
Pride Liberation Project touts on its website no other LGBTQ activist organizations center on “students, people of color, and gender expansive students.”
In 2022, the group says it “expanded our capacities to be prepared for an onslaught of anti-Queer legislation.”
In response to what the organization describes as “Queerphobic legislation” in Virginia, it created “the first ever student-led state-wide LGBTQIA+ lobbying group.”
“We decided to hold these walkouts as kind of a way to … disrupt schools and essentially have students be aware of what’s going on,” Sanghvi said, adding that Democrat policies under Gov. Ralph Northam, Youngkin’s predecessor, allowed students with gender dysphoria to immediately be affirmed in their new identities at school.
Sanghvi also said Youngkin’s plan would potentially harm “every single queer student in the state of Virginia.”
Nicole Neily, president of the parent activist group Parents Defending Education (PDE), told the Washington Examiner the orchestrated walkouts were a stunt by Virginia Democrats.
“For me, this is clear: The Virginia Democrats are coordinating using high school kids to push their agenda,” she said.
As the Examiner reported last week, a teacher in Fairfax County Public Schools urged students to walk out to protest the Youngkin administration’s new policies.
PDE Director of Outreach Erika Sanzi obtained the email sent to students by the history and social studies instructor at West Potomac High School in Alexandria.
The model policies which require parental consent to treat a student as a different gender identity, the email reportedly read, discriminates against the “LGBTQIA+ community.”
“In the draft [policies], it states the staff should use the name that appears in the official record and use the pronouns that are appropriate to the sex that appears in the official record,” the email added. “The policy as written may cause students to be outed given the parameters.”
Sanzi said the teacher was engaging in “blatant political activity”:
It is not their role to pressure students to attend school walk-outs to protest policy changes by a Governor or state Department of Education. Would this same teacher be comfortable with colleagues who disagree with him using internal school communication systems to invite kids to walk out in support of these recent policy changes?
On September 16, the Virginia Department of Education released the “2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools.”
The model policies’ guiding principles assert “parents have the right to make decisions with respect to their children,” and that “schools shall respect parents’ values and beliefs,” as they “defer to parents to make the best decisions with respect to their children,” and “keep parents informed about their children’s well-being.”
The document continues parents should determine “whether their child engages in any counseling or social transition at school that encourages a gender that differs from their child’s sex, or … whether their child expresses a gender that differs with their child’s sex while at school.”
The policies state parents and school staff should work together to accommodate the individual needs of children with a “sincere belief that his or her gender differs from his or her sex.”
School staff cannot conceal information about a student from his or her parent, including that related to gender, according to the document.
The policies add that students’ participation in school athletic teams separated by sex will be determined by their biological sex. Use of private spaces, such as bathrooms, will be based, as well, on biological sex.
According to the New York Post, Democrat Delegate Mike Mullin posted to social media the new policy is “absolutely shameful,” and “calls for the misgendering and outing of children in schools where they’re supposed to be safe.”
Youngkin spokesman Macaulay Porter however, said the new rule “delivers on the governor’s commitment to preserving parental rights and upholding the dignity and respect of all public school students.”
“It is not under a school’s or the government’s purview to impose a set of particular ideological beliefs on all students,” Porter said. “Key decisions rest, first and foremost, with the parents. The previous policies implemented under the Northam Administration did not uphold constitutional principles and parental rights, and will be replaced.”
The new policies will go into effect after a 30-day public comment period that began Monday.