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Parents, others debate transgender policies at Virginia Beach school board meeting

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Posted at 9:31 PM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-24 23:35:47-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - It was a very vocal group of people at Tuesday night’s Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) meeting as people discussed transgender student policies ahead of the new school year.

It’s been a highly debated topic throughout Hampton Roads. The policies must be adopted no later than the upcoming school year, which is slated to start on September 9 in Virginia Beach.

There were mixed feelings among parents and others who talked before school board members Tuesday night.

“These students need a place that they can feel safe and protected,” Virginia Beach parent Tonya Rivers said. “Access to bathrooms and safety in them is not a privilege in a right. It’s a right for everyone, not just for those that fit nicely in the 'boy' or 'girl' boxes."

“What would you say to a parent whose child gets a kidney infection - or worse - by refusing to use the restroom at school out of fear for someone of the opposite sex may be there?” Thomas Conant said.

Last year, state lawmakers passed a law requiring local school boards to adopt policies on the treatment of transgender students that are consistent or more comprehensive than models developed by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE).

These policies cover matters including student records and privacy, bullying and harassment, dress codes and students taking part in school activities.

Before Tuesday’s meeting, many rallied outside.

Inside, more spoke opposing the policies, speaking up for parental rights and more transparency.

“These children should be dealt with on a personal and private level with their parents, not with the schools, nor school staff,” Amy Solares said.

“We all are the parents for the kids, and it should be up to us what happens with our kids, not up to the school board,” Virginia Beach parent Annie Palumbo told News 3.

Meanwhile, many others argue this is needed ahead of the first bell.

“You have to do something to protect these kids,” StandUp for Kids Executive Director Mark Stevens said. “Keep them safe, keep them feeling good.”

“Safe and affirming schools are a core element of student success,” Virginia Beach Education Association (VBEA) President Kathleen Slinde said.

VDOE officials say local school boards that choose not to adopt policies assume all legal responsibility for noncompliance.

Related: Portsmouth Public Schools adopt policy supporting transgender students

As for whether the vote on transgender policies will be at the next school board meeting, VBCPS officials said late Tuesday night, "This is officially getting voted on next time."

The next meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 14.