NEWPORT NEWS, Va.— Newport News School Board members voted against adopting a required Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) policy regarding the treatment of transgender students at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.
The board voted 5 -1 against revisions to its Equal Educational Opportunities Policy to meet the state standard required by law.
Gary Hunter was the lone board member to vote in favor of the revisions; meanwhile, board member Terri Best abstained.
Chairman Douglas Brown said he did not believe gender is a spectrum when explaining his thoughts on the policy.
“This policy and this procedure imposes a set of beliefs on everyone," Brown said.
The VDOE policy, which is required by law to be implemented for the 2021-2022 school year, outlined specific procedures relating to dress code, student identification, access to activities to facilities and more.
There was much concern over the policy prohibiting administrators from disclosing a child’s gender identity to the parents; however, administrators say that councilors would encourage a child to work through disclosing their identity to their parents.
There were several community members who gave comment in support and against adopting the VDOE policy.
The LGBT Life Center in Norfolk says implementing the VDOE’s policies will help save lives of vulnerable youth who need support.
“In terms of depression, 75% of trans and non-binary people have experienced anxiety and depression,” said Corey Mohr with the LGBT Life Center. “Twenty-one percent of trans and non-binary people have attempted suicide, and that compares to their peers at eight or 9%.”
The LGBT Life Center says the policies will help support and reaffirm transgender and non-binary students.
“These policies help created an environment where we have a whole community standing up and saying what's going to be important to this community is respect and dignity, and we are going to value people for who they tell us they are, not who we decide you're going to be,” said Mohr.
The board says its current policy will be reviewed, as is procedure for all school board policies.
Newport News Public Schools announced the school board will hold a special meeting on Thursday, August 26 at 5 p.m. to reconsider the adoption of the policy. After the requested presentation on the policy and its accompanying procedures, board members may consider a vote to approve it if they approve reconsideration.