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Arlington Schools Chief Rejects Youngkin’s ‘Discriminatory’ Transgender Student Policies

Arlington Schools Chief Rejects Youngkin’s ‘Discriminatory’ Transgender Student Policies

Francisco Durán

He says his school system will stick to its inclusive policies which are in accordance with Virginia state law.

The superintendent of Arlington Public Schools in Northern Virginia is refusing to follow updated model policies from Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s Education Department on how to treat transgender students.

LGBTQ+ activists and parents across the state criticized the governor’s updated policies last week. Arlington is a suburb of Washington, D.C.

Arlington superintendent Francisco Durán rejected the revised guidance in a statement to community families on Thursday. Durán recently received a multi-year contract extension.

“I reaffirm our unwavering support for our LGBTQIA+ students, staff, and community. I want our transgender, non-binary, and gender fluid students to hear loud and clear that you belong here, you are valued, and we stand with and support you,” Durán wrote. “We have reviewed the model policies and determined that our current policies and policy implementation procedures that protect the rights of our transgender students will stay as is.”

The school system serves about 30,000 students.

During a conversation with The Advocate, Durán stressed the need to create a welcoming and safe environment for all students.

He said that families considering Arlington for their children’s education and those already living there can rest assured that the school system is committed to non-discrimination and inclusivity.

Durán said that all students, regardless of background or identity, need a supportive and inclusive community, including LGBTQ+ students broadly and transgender students in particular. He said a positive learning environment requires policies that protect all students’ rights and safety, regardless of their background.

He invites parents who don’t have trans kids or don’t understand why their rights should matter to consider a particular attribute of their child and how school officials protect their rights to get a quality education.

Last week, the Youngkin Department of Education released its “Model Policies to Ensure Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools,” severely limiting transgender students’ rights. Teachers and other school personnel are prohibited from using preferred pronouns or referring to students by a different name without parental consent. As part of the new school rules, students must use the school facilities that correspond to their official records’ sex.

“In a moment like this or any other, where a group of students is targeted or made to feel excluded in some kind of way, then it’s a call to action for us to remind ourselves to go back to the core and the heart of what it means to be an educator, and that is to support everyone,” he told The Advocate.

Educators must advocate for inclusivity, he added.

As an educational leader, Durán said he needed to stand firm against what he sees as Youngkin’s discriminatory policies.

“It’s very important for me to make the statement because when the model policies came out, many of our families, our staff, and our students were very concerned with what they meant for them,” he said. “As the superintendent of all students, regardless of their background, it’s my responsibility to ensure we provide a welcoming, safe environment for them.”

He continued, “So any issue ... where I feel that a student or family or staff member may feel that they’re not welcome in our schools, I need to be able to be loud and clear that they are welcome.”

Durán stressed the need for support and inclusion for transgender, non-binary, and gender-fluid students. He clarified that those model policies are not laws and stressed the need to follow the actual code.

Rather than being mandates, Durán emphasized that these policies are guidance for school districts to choose from. Virginia law governs how transgender students are treated in schools.

“When we look at what the model policies that were recently shared with us, compared to our policies that we have in place, we are in compliance with the code because we are following evidence-based practices,” Durán said.

“We are protecting student privacy and confidentiality. So we are, in my opinion, not going against the code itself,” he said. “At the very end of the code, it very clearly states that each school board shall adopt policies consistent with those tenants.”

He added, "We are following the code.”

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