The Virginia House approved legislation Tuesday that would prevent schools from keeping parents in the dark about their child’s gender transition, a bill inspired in part by the horrific account of a girl who was repeatedly sexually assaulted after identifying as male.
Known as Sage’s Law, the bill passed the Republican-led state House by 50-48 over the objections of Democrats who said the legislation was aimed at “forcibly outing transgender students.”
House Bill 2432 requires school employees to notify parents if a student is self-identifying as “a gender different from the student’s biological sex,” and clarifies that treating children based on their sex at birth does not constitute abuse or neglect.
The bill now goes to the state Senate, where Democrats hold a 22-18 majority. The House approved the legislation with no Democratic votes.
Del. Dave LaRock, the bill’s sponsor, said when he introduced the bill that “Virginia law needs to be absolutely clear that affirming a child’s biological sex does not justify taking a child away from their family.”
“Teachers, school counselors, social service workers and courts must respect the parent’s fundamental rights in the parent-child relationship by involving parents immediately when a child is experiencing serious challenges,” Mr. LaRock said. “The horrific treatment of Sage has shown the need to provide protections for parents and children in Virginia.”
The story of Sage was told at a House committee hearing last month by her mother Michele, whose last name was withheld to protect the girl’s privacy.
At 14, Sage started high school and decided to transition to male after finding that “all the girls there were bi, trans, lesbian, emo.” She adopted a different name and pronouns, but her mother said the teachers hid it from her. Sage was bullied, attacked in a boys’ bathroom, and ran away.
She was sex-trafficked in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. In Maryland, the state placed her for two months in a boys’ juvenile home, where she was repeatedly assaulted and given drugs by other kids.
Meanwhile, her parents were accused of abuse for misgendering her.
Sage escaped from the Maryland home to Texas, where she was “drugged, raped, beaten and exploited,” but was finally returned to her parents’ custody.
“Sage says she doesn’t know who she was back then. She wasn’t a boy. She just wanted to have friends,” Michele said. “But her school, the judge, the attorney and the doctor were all blinded by their ideology. The consequences for Sage were unspeakable. Please don’t let ideology harm another child. Let parents do our jobs. We know our children best and we love them a million times more.”
House Democrats called the bill “just the latest example of a coordinated attack against transgender kids across our country.”
“This legislation would make Virginia a less inclusive place for trans youth and put skilled and caring school teachers and counselors in a compromising situation, forcing them to choose their jobs over a child’s wellbeing,” said Del. Danica Roem, a Democrat and the state’s first transgender legislator.
In September the Virginia Department of Education directed the state’s 133 school districts to adopt policies requiring students to use bathrooms, access facilities and play sports according to their biological sex, not their gender identification.