Wise County, Va. residents rally against state policy on transgender students in schools

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WISE, Va. (WJHL) – About 70 people gathered outside the Wise County School Board building to rally against policies they say go against their religious beliefs.

The policy in question is the Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools. That bill was adopted in 2020.

The law requires Virginia public schools to adopt policies with the state’s model policy to provide a more inclusive learning environment for trans students.

The model policy outlines eight areas individual schools’ policies should address:

  • Compliance with applicable non-discrimination laws
  • Maintenance of a safe and supportive learning environment free from discrimination and harassment for all students
  • Prevention of and response to bullying and harassment
  • Maintenance of student records
  • Identification of students
  • Protection of student privacy and the confidentiality of sensitive information
  • Enforcement of sex-based dress codes
  • Student participation in sex-specific school activities, events and use of school facilities

The Wise County School Board adopted a policy recommended by the Virginia School Board Association earlier this month.

The crowd at Wise County Public Schools starting gathering around 6 p.m. Monday and continued with a series of speakers for more than an hour. They spoke in front of an empty school board building as no meeting was scheduled for Monday night. No counter-protesters were present.

Speakers said they were uncomfortable for what they said would be their children being forced to share bathrooms with trans students.

The Virginia model policy stated that students should be allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their gender identity. If schools have gender neutral facilities, they should be available to all students.

Speakers also said the policy is part of an ongoing effort to remove prayer, Christianity and eventually the Pledge of Allegiance from schools.

Jony Baker, who works for Virginia state Sen. Travis Hackworth, told the crowd the rally is not political, despite calling on legislators to reverse the policy.

“We sent it back to the General Assembly, let the legislators fight it out,” Baker said. “We got an election coming up this November and I didn’t come here to preach politics, but we gotta get that bunch out of Richmond.”

A member of the Wise County School Board said there is no planned discussion on the transgender policy after the school board passed the VSBA recommendations.

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