Safer Schools in Virginia: Lynchburg Circuit Court Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging Transgender Student Protections
RICHMOND, Va. (July 28, 2021) – In a win for Virginia schools and students, a Lynchburg court dismissed a challenge against the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies for the treatment of transgender students on Tuesday. Following a hearing last week, Judge Fred Watson said the plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge the model policies.
Equality Virginia, the ACLU of Virginia, and more than 50 partners and school board leaders across the commonwealth filed an amicus brief earlier this month encouraging the court to deny the Christian Action Network lawsuit.
The VDOE released model policies this March. All school boards in the state are required by law to pass policies aligning with the model policies for the 2021-22 school year.
“This ruling is important progress and emphasizes the continued need to protect transgender and non-binary youth in Virginia,” said Vee Lamneck, Equality Virginia Executive Director. “These policies will create safer classrooms and will reduce bullying, discrimination, and harassment. It’s imperative school boards adopt these policies as soon as possible because the lives of transgender students are at risk.”
According to GLSEN, transgender students are more likely than all other students to have negative experiences at school. A 2017 report from the organization found that 75% of transgender youth reported feeling unsafe at school. A similar GLSEN study found that students were less likely to experience discrimination at schools with supportive transgender and nonbinary policies.
“The court’s opinion granting the Department of Education’s motion to dismiss is a critical step to protecting the rights and safety of transgender children in Virginia,” said Kalpana Kotagal, Partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, the civil rights law firm that served as counsel for the amicus brief. “These model policies are essential to ensuring all students have an equal opportunity to learn and grow in an inclusive environment, and we are honored to have supported Equality Virginia and the ACLU of Virginia in their amicus brief defending transgender students and their families statewide.”
“The court has affirmed yet again that transgender students deserve dignity and respect,” said Eden Heilman, legal director at the ACLU of Virginia. “All schools should create inclusive, safe environments for kids to learn, and the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies are an important step on that journey. Discrimination has no place in Virginia schools.”
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