Many on the Left appear appalled at the idea that parents should have the right to know and intervene if their children “identify” as the opposite sex or seek controversial transgender medical interventions that may irreversibly harm their bodies.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, on Friday announced a new model policy on students who identify as transgender in schools, prioritizing parental rights and upholding sex-based policies while directing the Virginia Department of Education to enforce federal and state laws protecting children from discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
Youngkin’s policy reversed the directives issued under former Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, which mandated that schools adopt a pro-transgender stance and directed schools to keep parents in the dark if “a student is not ready or able to safely share with their family about their gender identity.”
If parents or guardians know about a minor student’s transgender identity and disagree with it, the Northam guidelines positioned the school as the arbiter of such disagreements.
The new Youngkin guidelines put parents in the driver’s seat. The model policy begins with the declaration: “Parents have the right to make decisions with respect to their children: Policies shall be drafted to safeguard parents’ rights with respect to their child, and to facilitate the exercise of those rights.”
The new policy states that “schools shall respect parents’ values and beliefs,” and that parents have the right “to instill in and nurture values and beliefs for their own children and make decisions concerning their children’s education and upbringing in accordance with their customs, faith, and family culture.”
The policy roots this squarely in the U.S. Constitution, key Supreme Court decisions, and Virginia law.
The Youngkin policy states that “schools shall defer to parents to make the best decisions with respect to their children,” regarding health care, names, pronouns, counseling, and social transition at school.
The new policy clarifies that students will participate in sex-segregated school programs according to their biological sex, rather than their stated gender identities, yet it allows for potential exceptions. “Single-user bathrooms and facilities should be made available in accessible areas and provided with appropriate signage, indicating accessibility for all students,” the policy states.
While the policy states that when sports are segregated by biological sex, male students and female students will compete according to their sex, it makes exceptions for federal law.
The policy also explicitly states that schools “should attempt to accommodate students with distinctive needs, including any student with a persistent and sincere belief that his or her gender differs from his or her sex.”
The new model policy criticizes the Northam-era guidelines, saying they “disregarded the rights of parents and ignored other legal and constitutional principles that significantly impact how schools educate students, including transgender students.” The new policy cites the same law under which Northam’s administration created its guidelines.
“This is about the right of parents to be involved in such important decisions and that all our students are treated with dignity,” Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter told The Daily Signal. “The law mandating that [the Virginia Department of Education] have a policy is cited, and the model policy is crafted to ensure local school boards who adopt it fully comply with all applicable federal and state laws. The ‘2022 Model Policies,’ designed to protect ‘the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools,’ allows for a 30-day comment period for Virginians to engage on its suggested content.”
Only 10% of school districts had adopted the Northam administration’s policies two years after Virginia law required them to adopt a policy on these issues, according to the Virginia Mercury.
The new guidelines make a great deal of sense. While transgender activists claim that students are more likely to commit suicide if schools and parents do not encourage their transgender identities, it remains unclear whether affirmation and controversial medical interventions actually help students with gender dysphoria.
Medical interventions can have dangerous lifelong impacts. So-called puberty blockers, for example, actually introduce a disease into a patient’s body, according to Dr. Michael Laidlaw, an endocrinologist in Rocklin, Calif. Hypogonadotropic hypogonadism occurs when the brain fails to send the right signal to the gonads to make the hormones necessary for development.
“An endocrinologist might treat a condition where a female’s testosterone levels are going to be outside the normal range,” Laidlaw told PJ Media. “We’ll treat that, and we’re aware of metabolic problems. At the same time, an endocrinologist may be giving high levels of testosterone to a female to ‘transition’ her.” Cross-sex hormones can also have serious long-term side effects, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular events.
Government should defer to parents when it comes to the health and beliefs of their children, especially on such politically charged issues.
Yet Virginia Democrats responded to this moderate policy change with outrage.
“Gov. Youngkin’s mandate targets vulnerable children, and it’s downright shameful to think that an elected leader would punch down at kids to score political points,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., widely seen as a more moderate Democrat, wrote on Twitter. “This mandate rolls back the rights of kids to be themselves in schools.”
“We are appalled by the Youngkin administration’s overhaul of key protections for transgender students in public schools,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia wrote on Twitter. “LGBTQ+ students already experience much higher self-harm & suicide rates because of the discrimination they face. This will only make matters worse.”
The Washington Post’s Hannah Natanson characterized the guidelines as a “top-down approach to governance,” even though they direct schools to honor parental input first.
Openly transgender state Rep. Danica Roem, D-Prince William County, claimed that Youngkin’s action “should be contested in court under the Virginia Human Rights Act.” That law, which Northam signed in 2020, bans “unlawful discrimination because of … sexual orientation, gender identity, [and other protected characteristics] in places of public accommodation, including educational institutions and in real estate transactions.”
Yet the same law states that the ban on discrimination shall not “affect any government program, law or activity [regarding persons under 18] … where the program, law or activity constitutes a legitimate exercise of powers of the Commonwealth for the general health, safety, and welfare of the population at large.”
In other words, in pursuit of parental rights, fairness in sports, and protecting girls from being forced to share locker rooms and bathrooms with biological boys, the law seems to allow Youngkin’s policies.
Roem was not available for comment to explain her reasoning to The Daily Signal.
“It is not under a school’s or the government’s purview to impose a set of particular ideological beliefs on all students,” Porter, the Youngkin spokeswoman, said in a statement on the policy. She emphasized that “key decisions rest, first and foremost, with the parents.”
Ultimately, the outrage on this issue traces back to the fundamental question of whether parents have the right to make key decisions for their children. Do parents have the right to intervene if a boy says he “identifies” as a girl? Do parents have the right to prevent him from taking so-called puberty-blocking drugs that will impede the natural development of his body and effectively give him a disease? Can they prevent him from taking estrogen or getting parts of his anatomy removed in the name of a female identity?
Radical transgender activists are trying to take away parents’ right to veto decisions that will harm their children over the long term, and Democrats are demonizing a moderate policy change that guarantees that fundamental right.
Youngkin’s campaign centered on restoring parental rights, and this policy shift represents a key fulfillment of that central campaign promise. By condemning this policy change, the Left only reveals just how radical it truly is.
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