The Campbell County School Board discussed model policies for the treatment of transgender students at a meeting Monday night, drawing dozens of citizens who wanted their voices heard.
The Virginia Department of Education’s model policies state that students should be allowed to use bathrooms, locker rooms, restrooms or changing facilities that correspond to their gender identities. Transgender students may also have access to more private options if they so choose. The model policies also state that school staff must use the name and gender identity requested by a student or parent, and school records should use a student’s requested name and gender identity wherever possible.
According to §22.1-23.3, which Governor Ralph Northam signed into law on March 5, 2020, all school boards must “..adopt policies that are consistent with but may be more comprehensive than the model policies developed by the Department of Education…”
Ten citizens formally addressed the board at Monday’s meeting, mostly with concerns regarding VDOE’s model policies for the treatment of transgender students. Several parents said they were worried about the safety of their children as a result of the new guidance regarding bathrooms and changing areas. Loud applause erupted from the crowd after multiple speakers.
Some called the new rules overreach, or said they are not consistent with teachings in the Bible. Some also commented on critical race theory, but the heft of the conversation centered on VDOE’s model policies.
Once the public comment period was over, board chair David Phillips responded to the concerns raised.
“I want to thank everyone for coming out tonight and sharing your concerns,” he said. “Please know that Campbell County Schools treats all students with respect, and does not tolerate discrimination. Campbell County School System has not adopted the specific model policies drafted by the Virginia Department of Education for treatment of transgender students. Our policies are in compliance with the law. We will continue to work with students and families on an individual basis to meet their needs. Campbell County Schools does not teach, nor do we plan to adopt any critical race curriculum.”
Phillips also said the board hopes masks will not be mandated during the upcoming school year, and that more guidance will be available at the end of July.
Shortly after the board voted to approve various policy revisions, some of which appeared to be related to §22.1-23.3, or the law requiring school boards throughout the state to comply with VDOE’s model policies.
School officials maintain the school board did not adopt VDOE’s model policies but is in compliance with state law. Current plans are for the school system to work with students on issues regarding the model policies on a case-by-case basis.
At the end of the meeting, an individual near the back of the room interrupted normal proceedings to ask whether the board would give a statement rejecting the model policies.
“You all would not go on record to reject this mandate, having not accepted it,” they said. “I think most of the citizens, that’s what we’re asking for.”
Someone else at the meeting added “like Pittsylvania,” referring to a decision by the Pittsylvania County School Board to pass a motion, which board members acknowledged was technically illegal, rejecting VDOE’s model policies, according to a July 14 Chatham Star-Tribune article.
Phillips said the topic could possibly be placed on a future agenda before the meeting was adjourned.