CHESAPEAKE, Va. - The Chesapeake school district is one of a few that still have not adopted a transgender policy mandated by the state of Virginia. Monday night, the school board took up the matter, hearing from the community about the policy that focuses on inclusion.
Instead of implementing the model policy, the board unanimously approved the revisions to its current non-discrimination policy, but parents argue it doesn’t go far enough.
“Shame on all eight of you for trying to sweep this under the rug. Children like my daughter are left vulnerable to humiliation, bigotry and feeling unwelcomed at school,” said parent Lisa Carneal.
Shane and Lisa Carneal are proud parents to their 15-year-old daughter, Lexi, a ninth grader who her mom says fears going to school.
“I guess she’s mostly worried that she will be a victim of harassment, bullying, even assault,” said Lisa, who supports the transgender policy.
Lexi is transgender. During her first few days of school, Lexi’s father says she felt like she had to hide who she truly is.
But Shane Carneal says having a transgender policy in place in Chesapeake Public Schools would help Lexi feel more accepted.
“If she was able to go to the bathroom of choice, she would use the female bathroom. I asked, ‘Why don’t you do that now?’ She says, ‘Because I’m afraid. I’m afraid of getting harassed, so I just go to the male bathroom,’” said Shane. “So, she is afraid and has expressed anxiety over other students.”
The transgender policy is required by the state and was supposed to be in place by the first day of school. However, the Chesapeake School Board delayed voting on the policy twice in the last two months.
During Monday night’s school board meeting, parents and community members spoke out, many in favor of adopting a separate, inclusive transgender policy. In the end the board voted to only update its existing non-discrimination policy, adding words like “inclusivity,” “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”
Parents argue it’s not enough.
“This is horrendously inadequate and unacceptable. My child is worth far more than five words,” said Lisa Carneal.
Chesapeake parent Tammy Baker agreed.
"The main thing I want to say to you is do the right thing; you know what that is," Baker said.
Others thanked the board for not taking any action.
“Thank you for equally protecting all of our children by not adopting the model policy,” said Kim Scott of Chesapeake. “Teachers absolutely have the right to be political activists on their own time, but not in the classroom.”
Bailie Rice said she doesn’t want her son, who just started kindergarten, to share a bathroom with adult transgender students.
"I would like to thank you for not adopting the model policy," she said.
Parents also spoke out about wearing masks inside the classrooms. Several parents were upset that the exemptions they applied for were denied.
The ongoing debates have become so divisive across the country that extra police officers were brought in Monday night – a total of at least seven officers were inside and outside the building just in case the meeting got out of hand, but that did not happen.