Last week, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin further delivered on his gubernatorial campaign promise to give parents more control over their children’s education. The Virginia Department of Education issued new model policies specifically directed at resisting the radical gender ideology that has become commonplace even in the Commonwealth’s elementary schools.
The New Model Policies
Virginia’s new model policies explicitly state that students’ participation in school programming and use of school facilities such as bathrooms or locker rooms should be based on their biological sex and that modifications should be offered only to the extent required under federal law. They also assert that students who are minors must be referred to by the name and pronouns in their official records unless there is explicit parental approval for the use of something else. And they also declare that schools may not conceal information about a student’s so-called gender identity from his or her parents and that parents must be given the opportunity to object before any gender-related counseling services are offered.
The document reads: “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.” In a rebuke to those officials and administrators who have encouraged wrongly named gender-affirming “care,” it explains: “Parents are in the best position to work with their children and, where appropriate, their children’s health care providers.”
The new model policies are subject to a 30-day period for public comment that begins later this month. Following that period, in accordance with a 2020 state law, school boards across the Old Dominion must adopt policies that are “consistent with” those of the state’s Department of Education. Macaulay Porter, a spokeswoman for Youngkin, noted that the updated guidance “delivers on the governor’s commitment to preserving parental rights and upholding the dignity and respect of all public school students.”
A Personal Anecdote
I can personally speak to how widespread the promotion of gender ideology has become, at least in Fairfax County, where I attended school for 12 years and then worked as a high-school history teacher. The very day after Virginia’s Department of Education issued this new guidance, my family attended a picnic in our neighborhood. My two eldest children (ages 9 and 7) were playing a game with other neighborhood kids, including, a bit awkwardly, a teenage girl who attends the local public high school. During the game, and when my wife and I were not nearby to overhear, this teenager told my children that she identifies as both a girl and a boy and that there are “72 genders.”
My wife and I homeschool our children. It wasn’t something I was eager to do — my extended family has been attending county public schools since the 1960s, and I was proud of my experience in FCPS 20 years ago. But I knew things had changed very dramatically in the last two decades, and I wanted to shield my children from ideas and behaviors that are not commensurate with their maturity. Simply put, prepubescent children don’t need seminars in gender fluidity and sexual experimentation. But over this past weekend, an FCPS-educated teenager took it upon herself to impart those ideas to my children.
As confusing as this was for my children — and as upsetting as it was to my wife and me — I do not level much blame at this teenager for taking away part of their innocence and forcing us to have conversations with our children about gender and sex we had been hoping to delay just a few more years. I blame FCPS teachers and administrators who welcomed this gender ideology in schools. And I blame smartphones and social media for proliferating these ideas with little parental oversight.
Protecting Our Children
Left-wing corporate media and Democratic politicians, of course, have been quick to attack Youngkin over his new policy. “Virginia has moved to restrict the rights of trans students in its public schools,” reads a mid-September headline from NPR. The Department of Education’s guidance “calls for the misgendering and outing of children in schools where they’re supposed to be safe. Absolutely shameful,” tweeted Virginia Democratic Del. Mike Mullin.
Think about the fact that in my kids’ very first interaction with a public school-educated teenager, she couldn’t help but share the confused, biologically inaccurate gender ideology she has been wrongly told is the most important part of her identity. That speaks to the pervasive nature and aggressiveness of this ideology and its adherents. Think about how many kids have had their lives thrown into chaos by adults who tell them they may be a boy in a girl’s body, “gender fluid,” or some other nonsense that may very well cause them permanent physical and emotional damage.
Thankfully, our kids trust their parents enough and have a solid enough understanding of what makes boys different from girls that we could have a brief, open, and hopefully instructive conversation about what they experienced on a neighborhood playground. Youngkin’s edict aims to ensure those conversations happen in the home, guided by loving parents, and less influenced by the confused ideology of bureaucrats who don’t have your children’s best interests at heart.
Casey Chalk is a senior contributor at The Federalist and an editor and columnist at The New Oxford Review. He has a bachelor’s in history and master’s in teaching from the University of Virginia and a master’s in theology from Christendom College. He is the author of The Persecuted: True Stories of Courageous Christians Living Their Faith in Muslim Lands.