Fairfax County schools defy Gov. Glenn Youngkin's new 'model policies' for transgender students

A showdown is brewing in Virginia as the debate over transgender student policies continues. Fairfax County school leaders have decided to keep their current policies in place but those guidelines do not align with Gov. Glenn Youngkin's new model policies. 

Fairfax County Superintendent Michelle Reid says the district will be sticking with its current policies for transgender students, which means that students will continue to be addressed by preferred pronouns, they will have access to facilities and activities consistent with gender identity and the schools will protect the privacy of transgender students.

Youngkin says the law requires school boards to adopt policies consistent with Department of Education model policies and that FCPS policies diverge from that guidance. Per the guidance released in July, the Fairfax County school board is expected to follow the law, he says.

But that's exactly why FCPS is sticking to its original policy, according to Reid. She says their current policies comply with federal and state anti-discrimination law. 

The model policies say personnel should use only pronouns listed in a student's official record and that students shall use bathrooms that correspond with his or her sex.

Virginia's ACLU says the model policies put school districts in an impossible position because a number of the model policies have a fundamental conflict with school boards' non-discrimination obligations. But some FCPS parents say it puts them in an impossible position too.

"My sons are just like other children across the county who feel extremely uncomfortable with the idea that they could be walking into their school bathroom and seeing a member of the opposite sex. It's supposed to be a private space," said Stephanie Lundquist-Arora, a parent and chapter leader of the Independent Women's Network. 

Arora wrote an op-ed in the Washington Examiner urging Youngkin to consider fining schools districts that do not comply with the model policies — similar to a move made by California Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

"Youngkin might do well to take a page out of Newsom’s playbook. Perhaps he could start with fines against the school districts that refuse to comply with commonsense, family-first guidance," Arora wrote. 

Virginia's ACLU says there is no clear enforcement mechanism in the law that empowers to Department of Education to create the model policies.

"The 2023 model policies will harm trans and non-binary students in school districts if they are adopted. And school districts have a legal obligation to provide a safe learning environment that is inclusive of all students. The 2023 model policies are fundamentally in tension with that obligation," said Wyatt Rolla, a senior transgender rights attorney with the ACLU Virginia. 

FOX 5 followed up with Gov. Youngkin's office on what he plans to do about school districts that do not comply or "diverge" as he put it from the model policies. We have not received a response at this time.