Harassment and Bullying Not the Reason for New Transgender Protections in Virginia Schools

by James C. Sherlock

The Virginia Department of Education’s Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools continue to be fiercely controversial.  

The Left points to harassment and bullying as the reason the 2020 law was needed. Yet we already had a law and policy against that.

The new policies were developed in response to House Bill 145 (22 Democratic sponsors) and Senate Bill 161 (four Democratic sponsors) enacted by the 2020 Virginia General Assembly.  

VDOE was directed to address each element specified in the law. Many think the authors went much further than they needed to comply with the law. 

It is important to know that the controversies are not over the parts of the law that protect transgender kids from bullying. Nobody defends bullying. And Virginia already had laws and policies to address that.  

It is time to provide and assess the facts.

The controversies focus on the sections directed in the 2020 law on: 

  • Identification of students (mandatory use of pronouns of choice with draconian penalties for non-compliance — people have been fired); 
  • Protection of student privacy (the model policies protect that privacy — for six-year-olds — from the children’s parents) and the confidentiality of sensitive information;
  • Enforcement of sex-based dress codes; and
  • Student participation in sex-specific school activities, events, and use of school facilities (such as the bathrooms in which a boy wearing a skirt. allegedly in one case and convicted in the other, raped two girls in two separate high schools).

The only baseline data Virginians have to assess the extent of the problems that the new law may address concern bullying.  

The state has had a law since 1950 and an updated Model Policy since 2013 to discourage bullying.

Bullying is also a matter of federal concern. Schools must report to the federal government in Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) reports instances of bullying over sexual orientation. The category is not broken down beyond that to isolate instances involving bullying of transgender kids.

In 2017-18, the last year for which the Commonwealth has published its CRDC report, there were 1,983 public schools in Virginia. Harassment and bullying over sexual orientation happened too often, but it was not widespread.  

The report showed:

  • 276 instances of harassment and bullying over sexual orientation.  
  • Those offenses happened in 130 Virginia schools in 38 of Virginia’s 132 school districts.
  • Forty eight instances were reported in just four schools, Bailey Bridge Middle in Chesterfield (13), Denbeigh High in Newport News (13); Patrick County High (11) and John Yeats Middle in Suffolk. 

Loudoun County, for example, reported no instances of bullying over sexual orientation in 2017-18.

Some may think some schools and districts haven’t reported bullying that has actually happened. Perhaps, but I doubt it — too risky.  The CRDC report is tied to federal funding. Any district or school filing a false report risks charges of conspiracy to defraud the federal government. 

And, in the case of fraudulent reporting of sexual discrimination issues, violation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  

Hardly seems worth it.

So neither we nor the state nor those who sponsored and voted for the 2020 Virginia law knows how often transgender kids were bullied, but we know it was seldom. We also know that we already had policies in place to punish bullies.  

The new law had other agendas.

There are no public data that support the need for the 2020 law. It clearly was not needed to address harassment and bullying. But I am sure the sponsors felt we needed it anyway.

Look how well that has worked out.

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27 responses to “Harassment and Bullying Not the Reason for New Transgender Protections in Virginia Schools”

  1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Obviously, the issues addressed by the legislation and the new policy go beyond bullying and harassment. But, so what? I doubt if the patrons would deny that. The bills passed the 2020 session on a bipartisan basis. The patrons and those voting for them must have perceived a need for them.

    Also, I don’t understand your problems with the guidelines;

    1. Pronouns–This seems like common courtesy to me, although I admit that I have trouble remembering to use the appropriate pronoun when referring to the transgender member of my extended family.

    2. Student privacy–what is the problem here

    3. Bathrooms–Ah! the biggie. This one has been fought out in the courts and the courts have ruled unconstitutional Gloucester County’s ban on transgenders using the bathroom of the gender they identify with and the Supreme Court refused to take up the county’s appeal. https://www.aclu.org/cases/grimm-v-gloucester-county-school-board
    By the way, the infamous rape in the girls’ bathroom in Loudoun occurred before the new transgender policy took effect, demonstrating that a jerk could go into the girls’ bathroom, policy or no policy.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Psst, he’s 30 years in an environment where for his first 25 they booted gays and for his last 5 years, it was okay to be gay as long as no one found out. That kind of institutional homophobia has effects.

    2. vicnicholls Avatar

      That’s all I heard from kids who identified as transgender: all the bullying that went on, nothing was done and they were males who thought they’d be safer from females. I have no clue or what planet any one is from, but females are NOT sugar, spice, and everything nice.

      Courtesy? I’d like to be called by my first name but many in my family refuse to do so. Welcome to life.

      Where was the proof that the laws on the books didn’t work Dick? I know kids getting bullied for various issues and none of them are asking for changes in laws, only that the current laws get enforced.

      No Dick, they could not go in without there being questions, and getting stopped. Even the rapes and pregnancies in the California women’s prisons should have taught you that one.

    3. Eric the half a troll Avatar
      Eric the half a troll

      “1. Pronouns–This seems like common courtesy to me, although I admit that I have trouble remembering to use the appropriate pronoun when referring to the transgender member of my extended family.”

      Didn’t our new governor-elect just run on teachers respecting the wishes of parents? I guess that does not extend to the parents of trans kids…

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        It’s not up to any parents. It’s the effing Federal Law involving discrimination! And, the Robert’s SCOTUS has already ruled on even the use of pronouns in the workplace when they upheld that transgenders are covered too in the CRA.

    4. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Bathrooms are not the “biggie” Dick. Encouraging a child in transgender fantasies and failing to notify the parents is. Read Matt Hurt’s comments below. I echo them.

  2. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Have to remain consistent with Title 9 protections. Remember, the SCOTUS ruled that Congress was smart enough to know the difference between “sex” and “gender” when they wrote and passed the CRA-64 Title 7, and they used the EXACT same wording in Title 9 of EAE-72.

  3. Cassie Gentry Avatar
    Cassie Gentry

    Nobody, but nobody, should ever be compelled to refer to anyone as he or she if it doesn’t conform to their actual biological gender. Every child is entitled to pretend to be someone or something that they are not and adults who love them have the choice of whether to play along. But this is for children and adults who play this game shouldn’t be entitled to demand that others play along with their silly games. Rachel Levine is, and always will be, a fat unattractive old white dude named Richard Levine. And if he insists on demanding other;s play along with his silly game, he should be dismissed from the public view and consigned to go away and be a Starbucks Barista or a regular drag queen in the counterculture world.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Yes sir, Bubba. You got that right, man. Don’t ever tell your employer that it is your intention to create a hostile workplace for transgenders.

    2. Eric the half a troll Avatar
      Eric the half a troll

      One in two trans kids will seriously consider suicide. Sorry but gym teachers should not be able to unilaterally override parents and their doctors on how best to manage their at risk child…

  4. Why should anyone be forced to use ungrammatical pronouns (e.g., he/they, she/they)? Stupid to make that required by law.

  5. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    Some stats for you, JAB…


    52% of all transgender and nonbinary young people in the U.S. seriously contemplated killing themselves in 2020. More than half thought it would be better to be dead, rather than trying to live with rejection, isolation, loneliness, bullying

    1. No one should be bullied. Schools should enforce existing no-bullying rules against transgender kids. What they can do about what occurs outside of school is another matter. Social media is domain where adult supervision is absent and Lord-of-the-Flies rules apply. I don’t know what you do about that.

      In an ideal world, if transgender kids need psychological therapy, then they should have access to it. However, I’m not sure how much good a lot of that therapy will do. The psychology/psychiatry profession is full of dubious fads and obsessions. Remember Freudianism? I’m not persuaded that we, or members of the psychological profession, really understand the transgender phenomenon. Many views are driven by political tribalism — which side of the culture wars you are on.

      It seems remarkable to me that, as far as society has come in normalizing transgenderism, half of transgenders have seriously contemplating killing themselves. You’d think we’d be showing progress now that any kid declaring him/herself to be transgender will be embraced by some and have his/her feelings validated (even as he/she may be bullied by others). I wonder how that percentage compares to the percentage for all kids. Depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation are rampant among our youth.

      1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
        Eric the half a troll

        The article answers your question. See attached graphic. Trans kids are about twice as likely to consider and attempt suicide than are cis-children. This is a big driver for the policy changes (not just the bullying) and, yes, a great many of these kids are in therapy and under psychiatric monitoring. Is it really too much give the literal existential threat to these kids for gym teachers to respect the requests of the kids, parents, and doctors involved? That is one of the big policy issues in play here. Why is that requirement (shame it actually has to be required and apparently litigated) so wrong? Most would consider it common decency. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e1b84b46ceb0c51eb780d22ca1cce8598a29d2491dfe9c94ae56b7d33a2ad3db.jpg

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          As long as the right, er, correct, people die, ‘sokay.

      2. vicnicholls Avatar

        Jim, from what I’ve heard, there are many other issues going on that are not addressed. So just throwing a dress or a set of pants on someone is not going to solve deep rooted issues

  6. Matt Hurt Avatar

    I have a question about the student privacy issue. I’m not a lawyer, and don’t play one on TV, but I do have a general understanding of “in loco parentis”, or the idea that educators may act in the place of parents while students are in their care during the day. However, as a parent, I am very concerned about any educator actively hiding anything from me about my child, who has not yet reached the age of majority. I understand this is different at college, but we’re talking about minors here. Don’t parents rights to rear their children outweigh the rights of their minor child to privacy? If the child’s right to privacy would withstand legal/Constitutional scrutiny in the case of any transgender issue, where would that right to privacy for the minor child from the parent end?

    1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
      Eric the half a troll

      I believe it is a rare situation where a parent is not aware of a trans-child’s sexual identity. In those rare cases, the safety of the child in the home environment also needs to be weighed against parental rights. I think the VDOE model policy attempted to strike that balance if my recollection is correct.

      1. Matt Hurt Avatar

        My question is that if that type of thing is acceptable to keep from parents, what else is? If there is a safety issue with the child in the home, why is the child allowed to be in the home? Either the parent should have full rights, or those rights should be revoked via due process and the child placed in some other custody.

        1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
          Eric the half a troll

          “Either the parent should have full rights, or those rights should be revoked via due process and the child placed in some other custody.”

          You really think the world is this black or white? A parent can do a great deal of damage to a child before the state steps in. But again, this situation is extremely rare, imo. Kind of like late term abortion – a controversy concocted solely to play to the base.

          1. Matt Hurt Avatar

            Unfortunately I am aware of many of my students who the state failed to protect from their parents. One died due to lack of appropriate parenting so I don’t need anyone telling me about the damage that can be done. I also don’t expect the state to override my parental rights without any sort of due process. If due process is something that is valuable, and I believe it is, we need to protect it. Otherwise, the rule of law will erode, and that will not work out well for anyone.

          2. Eric the half a troll Avatar
            Eric the half a troll

            “I also don’t expect the state to override my parental rights without any sort of due process.”

            Hmmm… a couple things. First, if a trans child wishes to keep this huge part of their life from their parents, their parents may want to ask why – rather than ask why the school hasn’t told them…

            Second, Rights (with a capital) should not be infringed without due process. I am not sure that parents have a Right to be informed by the school of a child’s sexual identity if the child does not trust their parents enough to inform them of a change in their sexual identity themselves. In this very rare case (if there are any), I will leave it up to local principals and administrators to decide how it should be best handled with the safety of that child being the primary concern.

            Again, this is a made up conflict. I have heard of zero cases where a child wished to keep their trans- status secret from their parents and the parents were kept in the dark. Instead, I believe that if a child actually expressed a desire to keep their sexual identity secret, most schools would counsel the student to inform their parents and work through conflicts with guidance from professionals.

          3. Matt Hurt Avatar

            What else do parents not have a right to be informed of without some sort of due process proceeding? I’m not trying to make a case out of the specifics (trans), I’m more interested in the general question of what schools can legally withhold from parents and when legal proceedings should take place prior to this happening.

          4. Eric the half a troll Avatar
            Eric the half a troll

            Rights vs. rights….

            In actuality, the student probably has more Rights in this scenario than the parents do. They are protected by the 1st Amendment and the 14th Amendment. Also the following federal laws come into play and protect their privacy fairly thoroughly: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, TItle IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, FRPA, HIPAA, along with a slew of Virginia laws. Are you suggesting parent rights should trump the student’s Rights without due process?

            But the VDOE Model Policies do attempt to mitigate the impact on parents rights while respecting student Rights as follows:

            “Additionally, privacy and confidentiality are critical for transgender students who do not have supportive families. Disclosing a student’s gender identity can pose imminent safety risks, such as losing family support or housing. According to a recent study, LGBT youth have a 120 percent increased risk of experiencing homelessness compared to youth who identified as heterosexual and cisgender (Morton, Dworsky, & Samuels, 2017). 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.”

            In the end, there are no true parent Rights that would require schools to inform parents against the wishes and counter to the actual Rights of the child.

            What other topic may be kept from the parent at the request of the child? I am not really sure. Surely health records (like vaccination status) may come into play. I do think if the health and well-being of the child is ever at risk [let’s say the child reports incest or abuse from a relative in a split family situation but does not want the other parent to know (for some reason)] there is an onus for the school to involve social services – here your due diligence concerns will be met. The same will likely be true for things like substance abuse, self-harm or significant flag-raising disciplinary issues. If the child is adamant that parents not be involved (here they may invoke “personal safety” concerns) the school would have the cause then to involve social services and likely would.

          5. Matt Hurt Avatar

            Would you perhaps be a lawyer?

          6. Eric the half a troll Avatar
            Eric the half a troll

            Nope… you?

          7. Matt Hurt Avatar

            No sir, thus the question. Have a great day!

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