Transgender issue attracts crowds at Hannover supervisors’ meeting | Education

On Friday, a supporter of transgender students attended a protest against Hanover County’s recent transgender student policy across from Atlee High School in Hanover County.

Daniel Sangjib Min/TIMES-DISPATCH

The emotional vortex swirling around the Hanover County School Board’s handling of transgender student policies over the past six months continued Wednesday evening, although this time the messages were directed at the county board of supervisors. .

The board received a listening ear from parents and supporters on both sides of the transgender issue as around 100 people filled the 6 p.m. board meeting. Some arrived more than an hour early, wearing matching color t-shirts and holding signs. A banner hung from a truck in front read: “Don’t step on trans children“. Others showed up with signs reading “Protect Every Child”.

The meeting also drew Dels’ participation. Buddy Fowler and Scott Wyatt, both Republicans from Hanover. Of the. John McGuire, R-Goochland, was also present.

The Hannover School Board is one of 16 named school boards out of 133 in the state. The intent with Wednesday night’s screening was to increase the pressure on school board members — or offer them support — by speaking directly to the supervisors who put them in their seats.

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That sentiment was noted by Overseers Chair Angela Kelly-Wiecek, who addressed the audience before public comment time. She explained that she and her fellow supervisors received numerous emails before Wednesday’s meeting. The emails either asked supervisors to remove school board members, she said, or demanded that supervisors direct school board members to take certain actions.

Although they appoint school board members, “under state law, the board of supervisors has no power to compel the school board to act in a certain way or simply to remove a member of the board. school board, she said.

Kelly-Wiecek added that supervisors cannot seek the removal of school board members simply because they disagree with a school vote or policy decision. She said school board members can only be removed for “certain reasons, all of which relate to individual wrongdoing.” She said formal removal of a school board member begins with a petition approved by a majority of supervisors. This motion would be heard by the Hanover County Circuit Court, which would have the final say.

Both sides of Atlee Station Road outside Atlee High School were buzzing Friday afternoon, as was…

transgender student the policies were an issue that started last summer before the start of the 2021-22 school year. The Hanover School Board has not implemented Virginia Department of Education guidelines regarding the treatment of transgender and non-binary students, as school boards have been instructed to do under state law. of 2020.

In November last year, the board rejected a policy change that would have allowed transgender students to use the toilets corresponding to their identity. In December, the ACLU of Virginia filed a lawsuit against the school board on behalf of the parents of five transgender students — that case is still pending in court. Meanwhile, in January, the ACLU sent another letter to the school board asking for immediate action for a transgender high school student, who sought to use the boys’ bathroom at their school.

Attorney Lisa Seward responded in February on behalf of the school board, granting the student immediate access.

Earlier this month, the school board voted 4-3 to call on Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal advocacy group, to review the school board’s equal educational opportunity policy. This policy would include issues such as the treatment of transgender students.

It sparked a protest last Friday at Atlee High School, where dozens of LGBTQ student supporters, along with about 50 Atlee students, staged a walkout about an hour and a half before the end of the school day. Parents and supporters stood along Atlee Station Road directly opposite the school, while pupils mostly remained on the school grounds in front.

In response to this event, a letter dated Tuesday was sent to supervisors and school board members in support of the school board’s actions and against the actions taken by the ACLU of Virginia. The letter explained why the school board was not breaking any state laws regarding its transgender policy, calling the ACLU “anti-family and anti-free speech.”

The letter denounced the lawsuit filed in December by the ACLU on behalf of the parents of five transgender students, as well as the letter of formal notice the ACLU sent to the school board in January regarding the student’s access to the secondary to the boys’ toilets.

Tuesday’s letter encouraged supervisors to support their school board. The letter was signed “Concerned Parents” and by a number of organizations including #ArmyOfParents, Hanover Patriots and the HanPat School Partnership, the Mechanicsville and Patrick Henry Tea Parties, No Left Turn in Education, Powhatan First, the Virginia Project and Virginia Christian Alliance.

“If the Hanover County Board of Supervisors accepts the ACLU’s pressure, it will allow the ACLU to impose its dangerous and extremist agenda on all students and parents in Hanover County; a program that could put many students, especially girls, at risk while undermining Hanover County’s existing efforts to create safe school environments where all students can thrive,” the letter read. “One need only glance at the ACLU’s website to know that they are unable to provide a fair, objective, and accurate legal assessment of any other school organization or policy.”

Wednesday, over 30 people registered to speak, so the board split hours for public comment. There was a segment at the beginning of the meeting and another at the end to allow everyone to weigh in.

Among the LGBTQ supporters was Kate Tweedy, daughter of famed Secretariat owner Penny Chenery. She said LGBTQ students “only want what we all want, to be accepted for who we are.”

Recognizing several family members who are part of the LGBTQ community, “their presence in society enriches our quality of life by adding a broader perspective and deeper understanding of what it is to be human,” said she said, adding that “being afraid of the difference is not strong, it is weak.

Others, however, supported the school board’s decisions.

Todd Gathje, director of government relations for The Family Foundation, said he fully supports the school board’s decision to bring in ADF. He said the wishes of the majority of Virginians — including Hanover residents — were not considered when passing the 2020 state law that required school boards to adopt policies transgender.

He specifically said that transgender restroom policies “would compromise young girls’ bodily safety and privacy.” He also said the policy would “undermine parental authority” by allowing schools to withhold information from parents.

“Stand behind the school board members,” Gathje told supervisors. “In their wisdom, they chose a high-caliber law firm to represent them at no cost to taxpayers – that’s responsible governance.”

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