In a unanimous vote, Russell County School Board roundly rejected the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE)'s policy on trans students on Thursday.
The policy was approved by the VDOE late last year, but the school board felt that it could not in good conscience enforce its terms.
According to the Daily Wire, the VDOE's policy directs individual schools to "accept a student’s assertion of their gender identity without requiring any particular substantiating evidence, including diagnosis, treatment, or legal documents."
The guidance approved by the VDOE offers "information, best practices, guidance, procedures, and standards" for school boards developing policies to address transgender students in their schools. School boards "may adopt example language in the model policies or use it as a guide to draft policies that meet the unique needs of their school division."
In one section the policy states that "in general, school divisions should make efforts to eliminate gender-based practices to the extent possible."
The VDOE insists that its policies must be followed despite the board's vote, and that what they are proposing is considered illegal by them:
"The 2020 legislation (House Bill 145 and Senate Bill 161) requires local school boards to 'adopt policies that are consistent with but may be more comprehensive than the model policies developed by the Virginia Department of Education' by the start of the 2021-2022 school year. It is the responsibility of the local school board to follow the law."
Josh Hetzler, an attorney working at the Founding Freedoms Law Center, however, opined the exact opposite, in fact, insisting that it was the VDOE itself who was violating many laws:
“[T]he policies themselves violated various state and federal laws, including infringing upon numerous fundamental rights of students, parents, and teachers,”
"Because of how legally problematic these model policies are, not to mention the likelihood of tangible harms to student’s bodily, privacy, safety, and dignity in private spaces, [the] school board simply cannot adopt policies consistent with the existing model policy."
Bob Gibson, one of the voting School board members, expressed the following sentiments in a statement:
"I was elected by the people of this community, and I intend to stand up to protect every kid and do the will of the people of Russell County — and not that of an overreaching state government,"
“The most important thing we can do is protect every kid and to provide them with a safe and secure place to learn.”