ABINGDON, Va. — Washington County Public School Board officials have opted to take no action on any policy changes that could affect the rights of transgender students.
On Monday in Abingdon, dozens of people addressed the Washington County School Board at its regular meeting, with many voicing concerns about transgender students.
Some said they wanted to be sure that bathrooms remained for biological boys or girls. Others spoke on the rights of all students.
“I think we’re heading into a hornet’s nest, what we’re fixing to do,” said Dennis Arnold, the grandfather of a Washington County schoolgirl.
Arnold said he was concerned that the state’s model policy for transgender rights could have boys and girls in the same bathrooms at schools.
“The Lord gave us two genders — a boy and a girl,” Arnold said.
Part of the state’s model policy says school divisions should adopt policies that will protect transgender students from bullying and harassment.
“They are saying that they could take a 5-year-old boy and teach him that he’s a girl, and they don’t have to tell his parents that,” said Mike Dye, when speaking at the Washington County School Board meeting on Monday.
According to the state’s model policy, school officials “could actually tell him that he is a girl, give him a girl’s name and a girl’s pronoun, but they don’t have to tell the parents that,” Dye said.
“This is evil. This is wrong. This is taking every bit of the parents’ rights,” Dye said.
Another citizen, Rick Mabe, spoke “on behalf of my Lord and savior,” he said. “I come here on a mission from the Lord. … I hope you would choose Jesus.”
Chad Morrison, a former school bus driver, spoke against the model policy.
Morrison said, “There is no need for any more laws and no need to open up any more cans of worms.”
Still, another speaker, Abby Dalton, said voting against transgender rights would “catastrophically fail our students and thus our future in Washington County.”
The Washington County School Board took no action, despite the multiple speakers on Monday.
“The decision was made to pull everything off and leave our current policies in place,” said board member Tom Musick.
The school board has not adopted any new policies relative to new laws passed by the Virginia General Assembly regarding how students are treated.
“Our policies already comply,” said Washington County Schools Superintendent Brian Ratliff.
“The bottom line is the General Assembly passed this code that requires the Virginia school boards to adopt policies regarding the treatment of all students to include transgender students,” Ratliff said.
“The meat of it is there’s a model policy out there. The bottom line is — in looking at our existing policies, we determined that, after consulting with our legal counsel, our policies would prohibit discrimination and harassment based on sex,” Ratliff said.
“This is a law. We have to make sure we’re in compliance with the law,” Ratliff said.
“We’re going to continue to protect all children. And we’re going to continue making sure all students aren’t harassed or discriminated against,” Ratliff said.
School divisions have been required to review and adopt these policies at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, said Russell County Public Schools Superintendent Greg Brown.
The Washington County School Board was not alone in recent days in having several parents attend a school board meeting and express concerns over new state policies that could affect transgender students.
Last week, the Russell County School Board in Lebanon rejected the new policies by the state.
“Our board did say no to those,” Brown said.
The Russell County School Board passed a resolution at its July 15 meeting that acknowledged the school system was already meeting the policies and expressly rejected the state’s model policies “because those policies would violate multiple Constitutional rights of students, parents and employees,” Brown said.
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