Anyone under the misguided impression there aren’t ongoing threats to religious liberty need look no further than what’s happening in Virginia, where the commonwealth’s Department of Education has outlined a far-reaching set of “model policies” for the treatment of transgender students in public schools.
The guidelines were developed in response to a bill passed one year ago by Virginia lawmakers, directing the Department of Education to establish “clear policies” for how transgender kids should be treated in the public school system.
Much of the guidance — “Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia Public Schools” — centers on allowing minor students to determine their own sexual and gender identities, forcing educators and their classmates to comply with their wishes.
“Schools shall allow students to assert a name and gender pronouns that reflect their gender identity without any substantiating evidence,” the guidance states. “School staff shall, at the request of a student or parent, address the student using the asserted name and pronouns that correspond to their gender identity.”
The policies — established with the input of only one parent — also urge educators to hide an underage child’s gender identity or transgenderism from his or her parents if they are not supportive of their child’s decision:
In the situation when parents or guardians of a minor student (under 18 years of age) do not agree with the student’s request to adopt a new name and pronouns, school divisions will need to determine whether to respect the student’s request, abide by the parent’s wishes to continue using the student’s legal name and sex assigned at birth, or develop an alternative that respects both the student and the parents.
For example, a plan may include addressing the student at school with their asserted name and pronoun while using the legal name and pronoun associated with the sex assigned at birth when communicating with parents or guardians.
“School staff should be prepared to support the safety and welfare of transgender students when their families are not affirming,” the guidance states. “School staff should provide information and referral to resources to support the student in coping with the lack of support at home.”
The policy guide goes on to state that, if a teacher “suspects or becomes aware that a student is being abused, neglected, or at risk of abuse or neglect by their parent due to their transgender identity,” he or she should report the student’s parents to Child Protective Services.
The guide does not define what would constitute “abuse” or “neglect.”
Other guidelines in the “model policies” include:
- Allowing students to use whatever changing facilities or restrooms that correlate with their chosen sexual identity, regardless of biological sex
- Barring teachers and school staff from questioning any student entering a restroom or locker room
- Subjecting teachers or students who fail to use a child’s preferred pronouns to disciplinary measures
- Requiring “gender neutral” attire guidelines for all school-related programs and activities
- Permitting students to participate in any school event or activity, including extra-curricular programs, “segregated by gender” based on their preferred sexual identity
The laws passed last year mandate school boards to adopt some form of these new policies for the 2021-2022 school year.
There’s no doubt these “model polices” threaten religious liberty. As Christians, we know sex is immutable. Genesis 1:27 tells us God created human beings — male and female — in His image.
To subject not only educators but also students to discipline for failing to refer to another child in a manner inconsistent with his or her biological sex seems to be an obvious example of compelled speech, which is a constitutional violation.
In its 1943 decision on West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, the U.S. Supreme Court decided 6-3 it was unconstitutional to expel from school children — Jehovah’s Witnesses — who refused, on religious grounds, to join in saluting the American flag or reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. The late Justice Robert Jackson argued at the time the policy of forcing students to recite the pledge and salute the flag constituted “a compulsion of students to declare a belief,” forcing them “to communicate by word and sign [their] acceptance of the political ideas [the flag] bespeaks.”
And much more recently, in its 2018 ruling on Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, the high court doubled down 5-4 on that precedent. Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion that “forcing free and independent individuals to endorse ideas they find objectionable is always demeaning.”
In addition to being a violation of the rights of students, educators and parents whose convictions contradict the transgender agenda, these policies would jeopardize parents’ roles in raising their children.
The Virginia Catholic Conference has stated the guidance “would undercut parents’ involvement in the life of their children at school, and endanger the bodily privacy and safety of all students.”
“Schools should not be accommodating the especially harmful view that youth is an appropriate time to be encouraging, in some cases, irreversible ‘gender transitions,’” the group added.
Abigail Shrier, author of “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” has spoken out about the issue at length. In her book, she writes that the nuclear family in America “finds itself in a society that increasingly regards parents as obstacles, bigots, and dupes.”
Despite the leftward push to embrace transgenderism and the LGBT agenda writ large, Shrier is urging society to pump the brakes, citing the fact that we just don’t know much at all about the long-term ramifications of stopping, reversing, or tinkering with a child’s physical and hormonal development during puberty.
“Long-term effects include heightened rates of diabetes, stroke, blood clots, cancer, and, as we’ve seen, heart disease,” she writes. “In general, mortality risk rises.”
There is a reason children are not in charge: they lack the maturity, judgment, understanding, and even capacity to make monumental life decisions. The prefrontal cortex — the portion of our brains responsible for decision making — is molded last and doesn’t finish forming until around 25 years of age.
Nevertheless, the “model policies” are receiving praise from people like Gavin Grimm, a transgender activist who, with the support of the left-leaning American Civil Liberties Union, sued Gloucester County, Virginia, over what were characterized as “discriminatory” bathroom rules.
“Even if your parents don’t believe you…. nothing invalidates who you are,” Grimm said during a recent YouTube round-table discussion with Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s wife, Pamela.