RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — On Tuesday, July 18, The Virginia Department of Education released an 18-page document including guidelines for transgender students in Virginia public schools. The models officially went into effect the next day.
The department’s new policies override previous guidelines for things like use of student pronouns and in-school activities and restroom usage.
In the new rules, student activities will now be separated by sex rather than gender identity, and students will use bathrooms that correspond to their sex at birth. School personnel will only refer to each student with pronouns adhering to the sex identified on their official record.
Richmond Public Schools (RPS) Superintendent Jason Kamras tweeted one day after the announcement, stating that he is not in favor of adopting the new policies.
“At RPS, our motto is to Teach with Love. That means embracing and protecting our students for exactly who they are,” Kamras said. “So I will recommend to the Board that we maintain our current policies on transgender students and reject the state’s new model guidance.”
Kamras gave 8News further details on his opposition to the new model.
“If we’re going to make sure that all of our kids learn and achieve and excel, they all have to feel safe in who they are at school,” Kamras said.
The superintendent particularly took issue with the new guidelines involving what names and pronouns students can use in schools.
“The most basic dignity that we can afford our students is to call them by their chosen name,” Kamras said, “to deny them that is to deny their basic humanity and we’re not going to do that at RPS.”
Currently, RPS policy says that schools should use a student’s preferred name and pronouns and cannot set dress codes based on “gender expectations.” The policy also encourages schools to “eliminate the practice of segregating students by gender to the extent possible” and let students use locker rooms and bathrooms that correspond to a student’s gender identity.
“We have a very robust policy that protects our students and tells transgender students that they are not only welcomed but they are loved and they are affirmed for exactly who they are and that’s not just about making people feel good it’s also about learning,” Kamras said.
This is not the first time local leaders in the Commonwealth have expressed vocal opposition to state guidelines. In October, the Richmond school board rejected Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposed transgender policies as School Board Member Liz Doerr presented a resolution stating the guidelines don’t align with the missions of the district.
According to the VDOE, individual school boards are required to “adopt policies that are consistent with but may be more comprehensive than the model policies developed by the Department of Education.”
Kamras told 8News he will let legal counsel handle the affairs regarding the requirement by the state’s department of education and is confident the Richmond Public School board will be in favor of his recommendation.
“This is a model guidance as I understand it, it is not required by the force of law. In fact, the general assembly did pass a law previously indicating that school divisions needed to adopt more progressive policies,” Kamras said. “We’ll let the lawyers hash it all out but for now we’re going to continue to do what we think is right for our kids. I’m confident based on prior discussions that the board will support my recommendation to uphold our current policies.”
8News reached out to several other local school districts to hear their plan of action for the changes, but as of this article’s posting, had only heard back from Henrico.
“Henrico Schools staff is currently reviewing the new VDOE model policy carefully to determine how the model aligns with existing HCPS policies, regulations and practices,” a spokesperson for Henrico County schools wrote in a statement.
While the Hanover County School Board did not provide a comment on the most recent guidelines, previously, the board voted 4-3 to disapprove a proposed nondiscrimination policy for transgender and nonbinary students.