Fairfax County school board adds transgender protections for students and teachers
The Fairfax County School board voted 10-1 last night to add gender identity to the district’s list of protected classes, providing protections for transgender students and employees.
The vote comes on the heels of AG Mark Herring releasing an opinion in March of this year which said the school boards had the ability to do so.
“The Supreme Court of Virginia has been clear that our constitution allows school boards to regulate for the ‘safety and welfare’ of children,” said Herring. ”And the General Assembly has been clear that school boards shall ‘provide that public education be conducted in an atmosphere free of disruption and threat to persons or property and supportive of individual rights.”
“Every Virginian has the right to live, learn, and work without fear of discrimination,” said Herring in a statement released along with the opinion. “That’s a Virginia value, and one that we must guard even more carefully when it comes to our children.”
Fairfax had been pursing protections for gender identity and sexual orientation in their policy since 2002, but they had not received a favorable opinion until now.
Board member Ryan McElveen (At Large) (top image) lead the charge for adding transgender folks to the county’s protected classes.
“We moved very quickly to act on that,” said McElveen about their reaction after the AG’s opinion was released.
While he admits he doens’t have a personal connection to any trans students or teachers, McElveen said he and his board members wanted to make sure their county’s most at-risk students were protected.
“In Fairfax County we are adamant about protecting all our kids, and that’s why not just this current board, but past boards, have had a connection to this issue,” he said.
The amount of pushback around this addition of gender identity was kind of a surprise for McElveen who said they added sexual orientation to the list of classes late last year with little rabble. This time around, it wasn’t until local activists and church groups on both sides of the issue got involved that the fight for equal protections for the students and teachers made headlines.
“Part of that is due to the fact that we’re so close to the nations capital,” he said, noting the proximity of Fairfax to DC could have also played a role.
The next steps for the policy involve hiring a consultant to make sure they district is following what McElveen called “best practices,” with the hopes of getting drafted regulations in place in the fall. But He also stressed nothing has changed in their practice, saying the county has always handled transgender students and teachers individually on a case by case basis.
“What we did last night was essentially put it into writing which ensures we’ve got the opportunity to do the best we can.”
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