Dinwiddie Schools approve transgender policies

By Zach Armstrong

DINWIDDIE, Va -- The Dinwiddie School Board voted to approve policies for its treatment of transgender students that are consistent with federal and Virginia law and Model Policies for treatment of Transgender Students published by the Virginia Department of Education.

“I’m really proud to say that I work in a school district where all means all,” said Dinwiddie Superintendent Kari Weston. “I think we've come together with a comprehensive approach where we not only do we meet what the state is requiring of us but that we are doing what's right for young people,”

The Virginia Department of Education has mandated that each school board model policies concerning the treatment of transgender students in public elementary and secondary schools that are compliant with nondiscrimination laws, maintains a safe and supportive learning environment free from discrimination, prevents bullying and harrasment as well as other provisions.

Under the released “Treatment of Transgener Students” policies approved by the School Board, gender is defined as a “set of social, psychological, and emotional traits that classify an individual as typically masculine or feminine, although the social construct of gender may be more diverse across a continuum rather than as a binary system.”

It also defines gender identity as “a person’s internal sense of their own identity as a boy/man, girl/woman, another gender, no gender, or outside the male/female binary. Gender identity is an innate part of a person’s identity and can be the same or different from society’s expectations with the sex they were assigned at birth.”

The policy prohibits any harassment based on an individual’s actual or perceived race, color, national original, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability. Forms of bullying or discrimination will be given prompt attention, including investigating the incident and taking appropriate corrective action, by the school administrator.

Information about a student’s transgender status shall be kept confidential. The school division will allow students to assert a name and gender pronouns that reflect their gender identity without any other substantiating evidence. School staff will, at the request of a student or parent, address the student using the asserted name and pronoun that correspond to their gender identity. 

If the student was previously known at school by a different name or pronouns, the building administrator will direct school staff to use the student’s chosen name and pronouns.

Transgender students will also have access to any school program, event, or activity, including extra-curricular activities that are segregated by gender after showing consistent and uniform assertion of the student’s gender identity or that the student’s gender identity is sincerely held as part of their core identity.

Regarding access to facilities, school personnel will work with each student, on a case-by-case basis, to accommodate the student’s needs, including providing a single-stall restroom option that is made available to any student who desires more privacy.  School personnel can add a privacy partition or curtain to existing facilities, providing use of a nearby private restroom or office, or a separate changing schedule.

For dress code matters, students will have a right to dress in a manner consistent with their gender identity or gender expression.

For overnight field trips, students who are uncomfortable sharing a common sleeping area, shower, bathroom, or other sex-segregated facilities will be provided with a designated safe and non-stigmatizing alternative.

The policies also state that all school staff will be trained on topics relating to LGBTQ+ students, including safety and support measures. Division mental health professionals and administrators will receive training annually.