Over 1,000 Virginia high school students staged a statewide walkout in protest of Governor Glenn Youngkin administration’s transphobic policies Sept. 27. Charlottesville High School students conducted a 45-minute walkout on Sept. 28, joining fellow high schoolers across the state in outrage against Youngkin’s policymaking. The Cavalier Daily’s Editorial Board stands in wholehearted solidarity with Virginia high school students protesting Youngkin. We oppose the implementation of these recent policies, and we condemn the transphobia that informs this administration’s actions.
Youngkin’s administration announced new policies regarding transgender students Sept. 16. We find the policy — titled “2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools” — ripe with transphobia. Parents must approve their child’s transgender identity “in writing” and “determine” what pronouns and name their child’s teachers should use. This extends to forcing students to use bathrooms and join sports teams only in accordance with a parentally-approved gender. Where is the student's privacy in this? Have we forgotten they have rights too? Children of transphobic parents now have absolutely no protection at schools — schools which may no longer be sites of “respect,” but rather, of parental whim. No parents of current Virginia students are Virginia public school students, yet the policy protects parents’ ability to control the education and identities of their children from outside the school. The policy also claims to “serve the needs of all students,” but it makes very clear that respecting students’ identities is not a need. This is unacceptable — transgender students deserve privacy and dignity to chose their identity for themselves.
These policies reverse the work of former governor Ralph Northam’s administration, which instructed public schools in 2021 to use the pronouns and names that students themselves requested, in addition to allowing students to use bathrooms and join sports teams that align with their identity. By dismantling these policies, Youngkin has undone progress for trans students in Virginia. This is a blatant step backwards that overextends parental rights in public schools at the expense of transgender students’ rights.
To high schoolers walking out or supporting those who do, we are so proud of you for protesting the repulsive policymaking in our state government, and we encourage you to continue doing so. As a group of seven college students not far removed from our high school years, we want you to know that we see you — perhaps more importantly, we respect you. You have a friend and ally in each one of us.
To our fellow college students, we encourage you to educate yourself on upcoming local elections, particularly if your local school board is up for election this year. In one of our hometowns, Chesapeake, Kimberly Alameda is relying on transphobic fearmongering to get a seat on the school board. Hoping to ban what she calls “gender narratives” in the name of parental rights, Alameda is a local echo of what is happening at the statewide level. Her website’s URL is “Save Chesapeake Schools,” but the terrors are only in her head. As with Youngkin’s “Model Policies,” transgender students are othered.
Another of our home areas, Fairfax County, was the origin of national transphobic and homophobic ire toward inclusive narratives in public school libraries. Though Fairfax County has since returned them to shelves, the county removed Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer” and Jonathan Evison’s “Lawn Boy” after parents complained about their sexual content. Of course, these parents only targeted texts with queer and trans characters. Anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment occurs at the local level just as much as it does at the state and national level. If you are 18 or older, vote. Keep those who are transphobic and homophobic out of office.
Students’ rights should not be ignored or excluded on the grounds of parental rights. A student at Oakton High School, one of our alma maters, has expressed a fear we share — that school will no longer be a place where students “can be themselves and express themselves freely.” All that comes of these new policies is the right for parents to disrespect their child’s identity. The Youngkin administration should be embarrassed and ashamed of these policies, which effectively systematize transphobia in public education. We write this editorial with immeasurable anger, and we stand in solidarity with high school students protesting the Youngkin administration. We remain disgusted with any promotion of transphobia anywhere.
The Cavalier Daily Editorial Board is composed of the Executive Editor, the Editor-in-Chief, the two Opinion Editors, the two Senior Associates and an Opinion Columnist. The board can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.