The Loudoun County school board agreed Wednesday to expand the rights of transgender students, allowing them to compete in sports and use facilities based on gender identity, and requiring staff to address them by their preferred pronouns.
The Northern Virginia board approved 7-2 the Rights of Transgender and Gender-Expansive Students policy after an emotional public comment session Tuesday that lasted more than four hours.
The board said the policy was needed to align with state legislation passed last year following a federal court decision in Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board, which found that barring a transgender student from using bathrooms based on gender identity violated Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause.
“LCPS’ number one priority is to foster the success of all students and ensure they feel safe, secure, accepted and ready to learn at school,” said the board in a Wednesday statement. “The school division will continue to do its due diligence in creating that environment and remaining open and transparent with all LCPS partners, community members and stakeholders.”
Loudoun County Public Schools landed this year at the center of the culture wars as parents spar with each other and board members over hot-button issues including critical race theory, systemic racism and transgender rights.
Under the transgender policy, Loudoun schools staff must allow “gender-expansive and transgender students” to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities consistent with their gender identity.
Students may choose their names and pronouns, and staffers are required to use those at the request of students or parents/guardians.
“The use of gender-neutral pronouns is appropriate. Inadvertent slips in the use of names or pronouns may occur; however, staff or students who intentionally and persistently refuse to respect a student’s gender identity by using the wrong name and gender pronoun are in violation of this policy,” said the policy draft.
Students are also allowed to use the bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.
The debate featured plenty of drama. At Tuesday’s hearing, a teacher identified as Laura Morris accused the board of pushing “highly politicized agendas” and quit on the spot.
“I quit your policies, I quit your trainings,” she said. “And I quit being a cog in a machine that tells me to push highly-politicized agendas on our most vulnerable constituents, the children.”
Virginia state Sen. Jennifer Boysko, a Democrat who sponsored the state legislation, said after the vote that the district had little choice in the matter.
“It is a state mandate,” Ms. Boysko told ABC7. “The superintendent of the state Mr. [James] Lane has stated that if schools plan not to implement it, they need to be held responsible.”
The Supreme Court declined in June to take up Gloucester board’s appeal in the Grimm case, allowing the U.S. District Court ruling to stand.