Prince Edward School Board takes no action

Published 12:47 pm Thursday, August 5, 2021

The Prince Edward County School Board did not take a vote to affirm or reject the state’s guidelines on model policies on the treatment of transgender students during its meeting Wednesday evening. Instead, they agreed the board’s non-discrimination policy, approved long ago, affords transgender students protection under the law.

The decision means transgender students may use the school restroom of the gender they identify with.

Prince Edward County School Superintendent Barbara Johnson was not in attendance at the meeting. Assistant School Superintendent Michelle Wallace told the board the school system has always handled the issue of transgender students well.

“Our schools have done very well handling this already,” Wallace said. “There has not been an issue. We have students who have come forward for different circumstances, and it hasn’t been an issue in the past because we have non-discrimination policies already in place.”

Wallace did tell the board Johnson’s plan to have transgender students use only private restrooms outlined at the July School Board meeting was not in compliance with the state policy.

“That policy is not really correct,” Wallace told the board.

Johnson stated during the July meeting of the board that everyone needed to feel comfortable with the policies, saying the board would discuss the issue at the August meeting. Until that point, which has been three days of school, Johnson said transgender students would use only private bathrooms.

Wallace emphasized the Virginia School Board Association has made it clear that lawfully, transgender students are allowed to use the restroom of the gender they identify with.

“VSBA has stated the law is clear on students being allowed to use the restrooms or locker rooms for which they identify,” Wallace said. “We may give other options such as the use of private restrooms.”

The board was given the option by Wallace of forming an ad hoc committee to further discuss the transgender policy issue, but no move was made to establish such a committee.

The discussion of the issue by the board came before and after  a public comment period when eight speakers, including U.S. Congressman Bob Good, urged the board to reject the state’s model policies.

“I’m asking you today to stand strong for the rights of the parents you represent by refusing to adopt the Department of Education’s transgender issue policy,” Robert Bradshaw of Farmville told the board. “It’s possible to find compassionate ways to protect every child, including kids struggling with gender, without trampling on students and parental rights.”

Congressman Good asked the board to stand up against policies from Washington and Richmond.

“I just want to challenge and ask you to stand in the gap between our children and the state of Virginia and your children and Washington D.C.,” Good said. “We talk a lot about following the science today, and the science tells us that there are two God-created genders. It is very clear, but instead our culture and our society and our academia is telling us that our gender is based on opinion. It’s based on feeling… When a child is confused about their gender, how tragic that the state of Virginia is saying, ‘Let’s reinforce that confusion?’”

Mary Carter of Prospect questioned whether the board is even qualified to make the decision given its poor performance rankings.

“I pulled up your rankings and the last school year the kids were with you, you ranked 300 out of 319 counties (school systems). Last year when they weren’t with you full time, you jumped up to 269 out of 319 without your constant guidance,” Parker said. “My only question is how can parents in this county trust you and the school system to know what’s right for their mental health and their sexual health and protect them and keep them safe?”