At the conclusion of the August 3, 2023 School Board meeting, Mr. Bryant (chair) read the following statement on behalf of the Board and Dr. Gurley:
Since we last met, new state guidance has been issued about the treatment of transgender students. As a Board, we want to be clear that we will continue to honor, support, and protect our transgender and nonbinary students, staff, and family members. Our policies have been carefully crafted to both support our students and to partner with our families, and we intend to maintain our current policies and procedures. As we have said before, when we take steps to support one group of students, we make our schools better for all of our students.
We are aware of the Governor’s announcement that he is finalizing VDOE guidance for the treatment of students who identify as transgender or nonbinary. We have not yet had time to review his final recommendations and will do so in the coming weeks. Across the state, his draft proposals were broadly opposed when first announced a year ago.
Our board made a statement in response to this draft guidance when it was first announced in October 2023 (scroll below).
Without a deep reading of the governor’s policies, we can’t comment on specifics. But we can affirm that we will continue to partner with families and we will continue to fully support our LGBTQ students, staff, and families.
Charlottesville City Schools is asking Governor Youngkin’s administration to drop proposed new guidance that would undermine the division’s ability to support students who identify as transgender and non-binary.
In a letter to families from Superintendent Royal A. Gurley, Jr. sent September 23, and a letter to the community from the Charlottesville City School Board to be presented this evening, division leadership restated its commitment to providing a supportive educational environment for gender-expansive students, staff, parents/guardians, and others within the school community. That includes ensuring that schools refer to students by their chosen name.
In supporting the rights of students who identify as transgender or nonbinary, the division is aligned with federal Title IX legislation, which extends school protections based on gender identity; Virginia law, which requires the Virginia Department of Education to issue guidance to support transgender students according to “evidence-based best practices”; and the division’s own policy, which has included gender identity in its nondiscrimination statement and practices of support since 2013. In September of this year, the Charlottesville City School Board also approved a stand-alone Transgender Policy and its accompanying regulations in order to bring all of the division’s existing supportive practices into one single document.
“On top of all this, protecting students is the right thing to do,” the seven-member School Board writes in a letter it will present to the community at its regular meeting this evening. “While we continue to learn and grow in our capacity to support transgender and nonbinary students, we are committed to moving forward with best practices supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics and others. We will not retreat to fear, misunderstanding, and bullying.” Read the full text of the School Board’s message — as well as Dr. Gurley’s initial statement to the community — below.
Dear families, students, and community members –
In response to the Youngkin administration’s proposed changes regarding the treatment of students who identify as transgender and non-binary, the Charlottesville City School Board strongly affirms Superintendent Dr. Gurley’s commitment to “continue to support our LGBTQ+ students, staff, parents/guardians, and others within our school communities.”
In this stance, we are supported by federal Title IX legislation, which extends school protections based on gender identity. In addition, our approach is in keeping with Virginia law, which requires the Virginia Department of Education to issue guidance to support transgender students according to “evidence-based best practices.” It’s worth noting that a recent attempt to legislatively overturn this law in Virginia failed. Our approach also follows our own nondiscrimination policy, which since 2013 has protected students based on gender expression and identity. On top of all this, protecting students is the right thing to do.
We are committed to maintaining our existing policy, adopted earlier this fall, which brings together in one place our prior practices for creating a supportive environment for gender-expansive and other students. While we continue to learn and grow in our capacity to support transgender and non-binary students, we are committed to moving forward with best practices supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics and others. We will not retreat to fear, misunderstanding, and bullying.
We have always partnered with families and will continue to do so. Part of the schools’ role – in every area of a child’s growth – is to work alongside students and families and to help them navigate new terrain (and to seek their help as we also navigate new terrain).
Having said that, one of the values that schools offer young people is another set of trusted adults. Most of us can recall a time when we asked a caring teacher, clergy member, relative, or family friend for support, counsel, or a lifeline. Rejecting such connections for young people limits the very resources that have always been available to them. Mentoring relationships are at the heart of a successful school, and we want to nurture those relationships, not police them.
We are proud and privileged to stand alongside our transgender and non-binary students. As in so many other situations, when we make changes that support one group of students, we make our schools better for all our students.
We call on Governor Youngkin and the Virginia Department of Education to drop this proposed update to the guidance for transgender and non-binary students. As one of many school divisions across the state and nation that are committed to affirming and supporting gender-expansive students, Charlottesville City Schools would be happy to engage in a more productive conversation to promote mutual understanding, with the caveat that our students’ respect and safety are non-negotiable.
As a reminder, Virginia is accepting public comment on the proposed new policy through Wednesday, October 26, at: https://townhall.virginia.gov/L/comments.cfm?GDocForumID=1953
Charlottesville City School Board
Lisa Larson-Torres, Chair
James Bryant, Vice-Chair
Lashundra Bryson Morsberger
Our Plans to Support Trans and Non-Binary Students:
Another challenge from the past week is that last Friday night, the state announced new draft guidance that would attempt to undermine our ability to support students who identify as trans and non-binary. And though this guidance concerns our students, we know that proposed changes like this also set a tone for how we welcome and support our staff, parents/guardians, and others who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Legislators have reminded us that these drafts are not final, that the state is bound by previous legislation, and that the community can lift its voice. Even so, let me speak clearly that we will continue to support our LGBTQ+ students, staff, parents/guardians, and others within our school communities.