by James C. Sherlock

The Virginia Beach School Board will vote tomorrow.

The announced subject will be transgender rights in schools.

It is couched by The Virginian-Pilot as the school board defending transgender students against “unnecessarily cruel policies.  As opposed, one supposes, to necessarily cruel policies.

The local paper refers, of course, to the Youngkin administration’s “Model Policies” on the subject. Which, like their predecessors from the Northam administration, are not mandatory, so need not be debated at all.

The School Board debate is at its core constitutional.

You will note that the Youngkin Model Policies linked its constitutional interpretations to court decisions. The Northam version did not. Northam’s just asserted what the constitution meant. Must have been an oversight.

My take:

  • Families are responsible for shaping the values, beliefs, and personalities of children;
  • Government is required to protect children from abuse and neglect. But government schools are not allowed to substitute their judgements on values and beliefs for those of the families;
  • They are most certainly not permitted to define parental moral or political disagreements with school personnel as emotional abuse at home. Or as harassment of government schools or teachers;
  • And government schools, absent evidence of abuse or neglect, must never be allowed to substitute their own moral judgments for those of parents.

But that’s just me. Not a lawyer.

You note I did not say of what parental values and beliefs should consist.

America is a free country. It is a constitutional republic whose constitution limits the rights of government.

At least on paper.

The progressive press, which is now nearly all of it, is in full-throated rage against parents who do not submit passively to progressive intrusion in the teaching in school of values that defy their own.

Abuse and neglect of children, carefully defined in law and policy in Virginia, are grounds for suspension of parental rights and custody and for criminal prosecution. The schools report a lot of the abuse and neglect that is dealt with by social services. The laws are enforced.

Those are good things.

But Virginia law on abuse and neglect of children does not include “emotional abuse.”  For good reason: the term is ripe for political definition.

One parent’s teaching of moral standards to his or her children may be another’s definition of emotional abuse.

A “start from scratch” test. If readers formed their own republic, would they write a new constitution that limits the rights of government or of the people?

Would they give priority in the raising of children to limiting the rights of parents or the rights of government?

Would their new constitution guarantee parents the right to raise their children to their own standards, and would their laws deny them that right only in circumstances of abuse and neglect?

That is the constitution and Virginia laws we currently have.

Or would a new constitution allow government to remove children from parental control for political or social reasons? By defining political disagreement as abuse. Because government knows better?

Many countries have been down that road. To the sorrow of their people.

Bottom line. The two different “Model Policies” cited above each claim support in the U.S. Constitution and law. Sometimes in the same provisions and laws.

Read the competing claims at the links if you wish.

You will note that the Northam administration found more “flexibility” in the constitution than did the Youngkin administration. The Northam version gained room to “innovate” in interpretation by avoiding inconvenient precedent.

Progressives flee from the topic of constitutionality by deflecting the questions raised here. They change the subject.

But constitutional freedoms are the context of current school board debates. They are not really about “Model Policies.”

Never were.

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16 responses to “School Boards, Model Policies and Parental Rights in the Raising of Children”

  1. VaNavVet Avatar

    Ultimately, the courts decide what is constitutional not the school boards nor the parents. Just let social services do its job.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Not at issue.

  2. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    Gee, same theme on the front page of the Commentary section today in the RTD, with editorial page editor Bass writing the column. Coordination between the media? Opened your post because I thought it was about the RTD column.

    The same argument was used all the way back in my first General Assembly session, 1985. It was too dangerous (!) to allow parents to be notified if minor girls (remember, we had boy and girls then?) were getting an abortion or even contraception. Parents would be abusive. Parental notice (let alone parental consent) would cause death and destruction and injustice….Democrats were voting for those parental rights bills in those days, BTW.

    1. VaNavVet Avatar

      Gender is a social construct as distinct from sex. Almost 2% of the population is classified as intersex having attributes of both male and female. Some of these attributes are at the chromosome level. Raises the question of what makes a male a Y chromosome or a penis.

      1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
        James C. Sherlock


        1. VaNavVet Avatar

          Reducing gender to biology eliminates all the nuances. Most of us know masculine women and feminine men and would have it no other way. Generally, folks do not look down on or demean them but are content to let them live their lives. So Haner may look back on the days of “girls and boys” but it was never that simple!

      2. WayneS Avatar

        Assuming you are a male of the species, if you lost your penis in an accident would you still be a male of the species?

        1. VaNavVet Avatar

          Assuming you did not have a Y chromosome but the doctors gave you a functional penis would you then be a male?

  3. Tom Blau Avatar
    Tom Blau

    Mr. Sherlock, A+.

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

    “But Virginia law on abuse and neglect of children does not include “emotional abuse”. For good reason: the term is ripe for political definition.”

    So is your opinion that “emotional abuse” does not exist (i.e. is just a political or moral disagreement) or that it is not damaging to the child enough to warrant legal protection?

    If it should not be legislated because “parental rights” are supposedly protected by the Constitution, are not children’s rights also violated through parental verbal and emotional abuse? Are they not due a mentally and physically safe and healthy home and childhood?

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      “I want a pony!”
      “You can’t have a pony.”
      “But I need a pony to feel complete.”
      “You can’t have a pony.”
      “Dorothy has a pony.”
      “You can’t have a pony.”
      “I’ll never get a pony.”
      “You can have a pony after you turn 18 and are living on your own.”

      Kids demand lots of things that are transient “needs”.

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

        So you answer is that “emotional abuse” does not exist then. I think you are mistaken but thanks for answering. Still waiting on Sherlock.

  5. DJRippert Avatar

    Lest anybody doubt that Virginia’s Democrats want to separate parents from their children on the matter of transsexualism,

    The Democrats’ proposed addition to the law …

    ” … (ii) whose parent or other person responsible for his care creates or inflicts, threatens to create or inflict, or allows to be created or inflicted upon such child a physical or mental injury on the basis of the child’s gender identity or sexual orientation;”

    One can only imagine how a leftist Commonwealth’s Attorney like Steve Descano could misuse such a statute.

    Patroned by Elizabeth Guzman (D-LaLa Land), she joined four other delegates in voting unanimously in sub-committee to lay the bill on the table (i.e. kill it).

    Del Guzman decided not to reintroduce her proposed legislation, perhaps influenced by the national criticism the proposed law generated:

    But make no mistake – Democrats in Virginia would like to criminalize parents’ resistance to allowing their minor children’s plans to pursue gender reassignment procedures.

    In fact, the Democrats were back again in 2023 with another proposed bill to allow children to hide their decisions from their parents.

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

      “But make no mistake – Democrats in Virginia would like to criminalize parents’ resistance to allowing their minor children’s plans to pursue gender reassignment procedures.”

      This is a non sequitur.

  6. WayneS Avatar

    America is a free country. It is a constitutional republic whose constitution limits the rights of government.

    Power. The U.S. constitution limits the federal government’s power. The federal government has no rights.

  7. WayneS Avatar

    But Virginia law on abuse and neglect of children does not include “emotional abuse”

    Actually, it does. Mental abuse or neglect is defined in 22VAC40-705-30.C. It includes inflicting abuse which may cause “mental injury” (not clearly defined), as well as “acts of omission by the caretaker resulting in harm to a child’s psychological or emotional health or development.”

    I’m not saying it would be easy to prove in court, but the emotional wellbeing of our children is not ignored in the laws of Virginia.

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