The Virginia Department of Education detailed on Friday its new policies for school districts handling students who identify as transgender, with the guidance leaning heavily on parental rights and consent.
Citing one prime example, according to the new Virginia education measures, districts can only recognize transgender students if the minor's parent requests, in writing, the school subsequently address their child by a different gender identity.
"Parents have the right to make decisions with respect to their children," according to the new guidance measures. "Policies shall be drafted to safeguard parents' rights with respect to their child, and to facilitate the exercise of those rights."
The DOE document aligns with the conservative platform of new Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
It also comes shortly after the Washington Examiner reported that Fairfax County Public Schools had previously required its teachers to complete a training module that provided direction on the degree to which students could adopt a different gender identity at school — without parental awareness.
At the time, the district reportedly told teachers and staffers it had the authority to change the child's name on documents, without first securing parental consent, or notifying the child's parents.
Upon reading the Examiner's reporting, Gov. Youngkin made a public example of the Fairfax County schools at a political rally.
"These ... progressives in Fairfax County actually believe that they should lock parents out of their children's lives," said Youngkin, before adding that he would use "every ounce of my authority" to "work ... to protect parents' rights."
Under the direction of Youngkin, schools will now be directed to "defer to parents to make the best decisions with respect to their children."
"Parents are in the best position to work with their children ... to determine (a) what names, nicknames, and/or pronouns, if any, shall be used for their child by teachers and school staff while their child is at school, (b) whether their child engages in any counseling or social transition at school that encourages a gender that differs from their child's sex, or (c) whether their child expresses a gender that differs with their child's sex while at school," the policy says.
Parental rights in education was a touchstone topic for the victorious Youngkin during last year's gubernatorial campaign in Virginia.
And according to Nicole Neily, president of Parents Defending Education (PDE), the Virginia Department of Education's updated policies are yet another sign that Virginia officials have been "listening to parents."
"PDE has been overwhelmed by tips from across the country on gender issues in the classroom, which underscores that this issue is a major flashpoint for families from coast to coast," Neily said in a statement, according to the Examiner. "Polling consistently shows that when it comes to the topic of gender in schools, parents worry about fairness, safety, and the preservation of parental rights — and that these concerns transcend both racial and political lines."
As Newsmax chronicled last November, Neily's statement was essentially echoed by then-Gov.-elect Youngkin, when he offered this advice to other Republican candidates.
"The polls kept telling us that education was the seventh or eighth or ninth most important issue," Youngkin said last fall. "Let me tell you, it is the top issue right now, and Republicans across the country can own this topic."
Youngkin also said Republicans can win their respective races by pushing for "strong schools that teach our children how to excel, not watering down the curriculum, a school where parents have a say in what their children are being taught."
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