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Virginia Beach Students Push Back Against Glenn Youngkin's Anti-Trans Policies

Virginia Beach Students Push Back Against Glenn Youngkin's Anti-Trans Policies

Glenn Youngkin and First Colonial High School

The students have been attending every school board meeting for the past year to speak out.

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Students in Virginia Beach, Va., are fighting back against Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s anti-transgender “model policies” for public schools.

Youngkin and his Department of Education announced the policies a year ago and finalized them in July. They state that sex means “biological sex,” not gender identity, that students must use restrooms and changing rooms designated for that sex, and that students may compete only on the sports teams for that sex as well.

They also state that school personnel must refer to students only by the names and pronouns on their official records unless a student or their parent makes a written request for a change, and that school staffers must inform parents if the student expresses a different gender or engages in counseling or social transition about it.

Under a Virginia law passed in 2020, the state is required to craft model policies regarding treatment of trans students, and school districts are required to adopt these policies or ones that go further but have the same aims. In 2021, under Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, the model policies were supportive of trans students.

However, several school boards in Virginia have declined to adopt the new policies, and in Virginia Beach, the state’s largest city, the board remains undecided. LGBTQ+ and allied students have been attending board meetings in Virginia Beach for the past year to push back against the policies, whether or not they’re on the agenda at a given meeting, The Washington Postreports.

A few students came up with the plan in a discussion during their lunch period at First Colonial High School in September 2022. Since then their number has grown, with up to 25 attending meetings, including students from other schools in the district.

“A student must come out on their own terms,” Icarus Landaker, a nonbinary student at Princess Anne High School, said at the August 8 board meeting. “I was given time before coming out to my parents, and although it was difficult, it would have been worse if I was not the one who approached them.”

The group has recruited through social media, and students edit one another’s speeches, making sure they fit within the three minutes allowed for each public comment, and practice extensively. They’ve pledged to avoid cheering or clapping at board meetings.

The young people felt they’d achieved a partial victory when, in June, the board voted 6-5 to adopt a resolution saying the district wouldn’t discriminate against or harass LGBTQ+ students, potentially going against the model policies, which hadn’t been finalized yet. The students broke the no cheering or clapping rule at the end of that meeting, which went until 2 a.m.

After the finalization, however, the board took up the policies in an August 22 meeting and deadlocked on them, 5-5, with one member abstaining. With the matter remaining in limbo, students are vowing to fight on, even though some of those originally involved have graduated.

“If we have to wait till 2 a.m., if we have to keep coming for another nine months, if we have to reorganize ourselves because the class of ’23 is departing to college, then so be it,” Jacob Cruz, one of the first organizers, said during an August board meeting.

Other students in attendance, the Post reports, “wiggled their fingers in silent applause.”

Pictured: Gov. Glenn Youngkin and First Colonial High School

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.