Ahead of the upcoming academic year, Albemarle County Public Schools could have a policy in place to protect transgender and nonbinary students. The policy, which will place the county within compliance of new state law, will be outlined in a virtual information session on July 28, and could be voted on formally by the school board’s Aug. 12 meeting.
While the 10-page document outlines various guidelines, some details, however, are still being finalized.
“The whole issue of how do you find that balance between privacy rights of a student and the rights of the parents to be informed and involved in decisions that involve their kids is a significant one,” said ACPS spokesperson Phil Giaramita. “I think it will get a lot of attention between now and the 12th.”
One such example of striking a balance is the proposed “case-by-case basis” for informing parents of a student who does not identify with the gender and name on their birth certificate.
At the School Board’s July 8 meeting, board member Dave Oberg asked for more clarity on determining a parent’s involvement in a child’s transition process.
“If there’s a specific reason for a parent not to know, I get that. I think it should be clear so we don’t have employees put in the position to make a tough call themselves,” he said during the meeting.
The proposed policy acknowledges that not every transgender or gender-expansive student may have a supportive home life and may not wish for their parents to know. ACPS Attorney Ross Holden explained then that due to a variety of issues that could arise, the policy could be general but that there would be room to address specific situations as “we get more experiences with the issues that could arise under the policy.”
Giaramita said in the time leading up to next month’s vote, more details could be tweaked.
At the upcoming information session, Holden is slated to lead a presentation about the policy. Lars Holmstrom, from the School and Community Empowerment Office, is scheduled to present about the equity research that went into drafting the policy and the effect it could have.
“I think there is support in this community [for] students who are transgender or gender-expansive, that we need to do more to make sure they are safe and supported in schools,” Giaramita explained.
The policy is in line with state law that was passed by the General Assembly in 2020. It requires the Virginia Department of Education and local school boards to model policies related to the treatment of transgender or gender-expansive students. Within the policy, the term gender-expansive is used to also represent students who may be nonbinary — meaning their gender identities and/or expressions are neither male nor female.
Under the drafted policy students can be addressed by their preferred name and gender without the need for parental consent or legal documentation needed. The policy also outlines how parents can be involved should their children be in the process of transitioning and how the schools can provide additional support for the student and parents.
It also cautions school administrators that not every transgender or gender-expansive student may have support at home, with a section stating that school personnel should relay concerns to Child Protective Services if they suspect or learn that a student is facing harm or abuse at home.
The policy includes processes for school administrators to collaborate with family members throughout a child’s various levels of transition should the child be in communication with their parents about their identity
It also explains that students will be able to use restrooms and locker rooms that align with their identified gender, and that any student with a fluid gender can work with their school on locker and restroom access that best affirms their identity.
As the July 8 School Board meeting included public comment that was both supportive and critical of the policy, anyone with additional comments, questions or suggestions are encouraged to send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions will be answered and posted to ACPS website ahead of the Aug. 12 meeting.
The information session live stream will be available here, and will start at 6:30 pm July 28.
“We are learning as our society and community is learning how to best manage these issues,” Giaramita said. “This is part of the process. The more engaged the community is, the better the decision will be.”