The 7-3 vote came amid fiery public comments supporting and opposing the proposal, which has been criticized for granting the superintendent too much policymaking authority.
The state is currently mandating that school boards adopt measures either aligned with or tougher than model policies released by the Department of Education (DOE). Those would, among other things, require the use of students’ preferred pronouns and allow them to use a facility, including locker rooms and restrooms, “that corresponds to their gender identity.”
One of the more controversial provisions bars schools from informing parents of student-requested changes.
It reads: “School divisions will need to consider the health and safety of the student in situations where students may not want their parents to know about their gender identity, and schools should address this on a case-by-case basis.”
“If a student is not ready or able to safely share with their family about their gender identity, this should be respected. There are no regulations requiring school staff to notify a parent or guardian of a student’s request to affirm their gender identity, and school staff should work with students to help them share the information with their family when they are ready to do so.”
It’s unclear how exactly Superintendent Aaron Spence will proceed and he didn’t immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment. However, he has reportedly offered support for the state plan and suggested the school district was already complying.
“I think, in general, we’re already complying with the guidance that’s been developed, so I think we’ll probably be OK there,” he said, according to News 3.
He added that the “key issue for us to all to remember is that this is a state law, and a requirement in state law that the DOE [Virginia Department of Education] developed model policies for the protection of transgender students and that school boards adopt those policies either in compliance with or more stringent than.”
“My obligation and my belief is that, as a superintendent, all of our students need to be provided with the same equal protections under the law. We need to make sure that they feel welcomed and included in our buildings – every single student.”
School board member Vicky Manning voted against the policy on Tuesday. In a statement provided to Fox News, she said: “I firmly believe this policy is a violation of both the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions’ religious liberty protections, the 1st Amendment of the Constitution, parental rights laws, privacy laws and more.”
“I believe that anyone who votes in the affirmative for this policy or anyone who implements items in this policy will be in violation of their oath of office. I also believe that any administrator, teacher or employee who enforces or implements the practices I have mentioned, could be in violation of law and subject to lawsuits against them,” she said, adding she hoped parents pursued relief in the courts.