Today, students across Virginia will take part in a strike to protest the recent policy change of the state Department of Education initiated by Republican Governor Glenn Yangkin. At the time of writing this article, about 100 schools have been named in the open list of schools participating in the Pride Liberation Project from Virginia.
On September 16, the Virginia Department of Education, at the direction of Yangkin, announced a change in the policy in its schools regarding the treatment of transgender students. The new draft guidelines from the state will require students to use restrooms and locker rooms based on the gender assigned to them at birth, and will force students to obtain a court order or other official legal document to update their name or pronouns at school. The new rules will also require students to participate in sports and gender-separated extracurricular activities, depending on the gender assigned to them at birth.
As soon as the policy change was announced, says 17-year-old Nath Sanghvi, “that same night we developed an action plan and, in fact, decided to plan strikes across the state.” Sangwi, who says she started organizing the Pride Liberation Project in January, is concerned about how these principles might affect LGBTQ+ students as well as other marginalized students in Virginia.
“As a minority student — I’m a person of color — I discovered that schools can be some of the safest places for people like me, and my first reaction was just shock,” Sangvi recalls. “It hurts students. This is a clear attack on LGBTQ+ students in the state of Virginia. And if it is [approved], it will affect every student in Virginia.”
In the Ministry of Education’s introductory text to the new guidelines, the position is presented as “empowering parents”, arguing that the earlier guidelines violated parental rights regarding the child’s education. A previous policy put in place under former Governor Ralph Northam in 2021 stated that schools should use the names and pronouns of a student’s choice without “any supporting evidence” and evaluate whether such information should be shared with the student’s family, according to AP. However, according to the Virginia Mercury, many school districts did not follow these initial guidelines, and the state Department of Education had little authority to enforce them. According to the new policy, teachers should not address students “in any way that would violate their rights protected by the Constitution.”
According to the 2019 GLSEN National School Climate Survey, “the vast majority of LGBTQ students in Virginia have regularly (sometimes, frequently, or frequently) heard anti-LGBTQ statements,” including some from school officials, and most of them reported having been “victimized” against LGBTQ. “at school. According to one count, the number of transgender children in Virginia is 6,200.
On September 26, the Ministry of Energy opened a 30-day comment period on the proposed policy change.
“When these draft rules were published on Friday night, not a single student in Virginia and not a single lawyer expected to see this,” Aarian Raval, student organizer of the Pride Liberation Project, told Teen Vogue. Raval says that not only transgender students are at risk, but also queer and heterosexual students. One vaguely worded part of the new rules can also be used to force school employees to give students to their parents. “These rules went into effect and deprived many of our rights, and it really was the largest denial of queer student rights that we have ever seen in Virginia-or at least in my entire life.”
Raval, 18, is a Harvard freshman and continues his work as a student organizer for the safety of the student strike participants. “There is a great need for some of us who are over 18 to be involved in this because we have heard countless stories from students that they are not allowed to participate in this or they cannot take action because they are closed and if they are in any way They are connected with us, their lives will be in danger,” Raval explains.
“As a closeted student, I would not be able to return home if my parents found out that I was homosexual,” a student who attended a school in Fairfax County said in a statement to the Pride Liberation Project in response to political news. I’m afraid that these draft rules will deprive me of one of the few places where I can just be myself.”
Delegate Danica Roem, the state’s first openly transgender lawmaker (elected in 2017), told the Virginia news agency WTOP that lawsuits against the policy could soon be filed, saying, “There are a lot of legal issues involved.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if a lawsuit is filed either as a preliminary injunction or after a student is actually harmed because of what the governor is doing here,” Roem continued. “You have to realize [three