Fairfax County School Board Vote Protects Transgender, Gender-Expansive Students

FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA — Tonight, the Fairfax County School Board unanimously approved an updated Students Rights and Responsibilities (SR&R) document, which details expectations for student behavior and adult responses designed to enhance school safety and create a fair, equitable, and supportive school environment. For the first time, the SR&R will enumerate essential rights and protections for transgender and other gender-expansive students in accordance with the School Board’s nondiscrimination policy, FCPS regulations, and Virginia code.

In sponsoring the motion, Fairfax County School Board Member Karl Frisch, the board’s Providence District representative and first openly LGBTQ member, said the following:

“In recent months, School Board meetings in neighboring counties have descended into chaos as extremists attempt to deny these students their very existence, attack their humanity, and object to their right to thrive in public schools.

In years past, former members of this School Board have shared similar sentiments from this very dais. We still hear such comments during public participation from time to time.

To the gender-expansive and transgender students and their families who have witnessed these attacks on their simple human dignity, I am sorry. You deserve much, much better.

Tonight’s vote will not sweep away the pain and hurt you have experienced at the hands of careless peers or adults who should know better.

But the changes we approve in this new Student Rights and Responsibilities document demonstrate our commitment to your success and safety in Fairfax County Public Schools. They are long overdue.”

The motion to approve the revised SR&R was seconded by Laura Jane Cohen from Springfield District, who said in her remarks:

“Every student should have the opportunity to be successful in our schools. Feeling safe and supported has got to be the foundation of that success. Assuring that students’ rights are made very clear in the SR&R is an incredibly important first step. I’m grateful for the tireless work of so many amazing students, staff, and families, in our community. Today was a win for every single student in our schools.”

The revised SR&R draws on Regulation 2603, explicitly identifying several rights of particular interest to transgender and other gender-expansive students and their families. Among them are the right to use facilities that align with their gender identity, the right to be called by their chosen name and pronoun, the right to non-disclosure of their gender identity or sexual orientation, and the right to receive support that ensures equitable access to all school facilities and activities. Additionally, the revised SR&R protects students from being intentionally outed or maliciously misgendered or deadnamed.

Here are full comments from Frisch and Cohen at last night’s School Board meeting:

Here is the full discussion and vote:

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND

In 2015, the School Board voted to extend its nondiscrimination policy to include gender identity. FCPS staff prepared an initial regulation in July 2016, but implementation was suspended until pending legal issues could be evaluated and resolved.

During the spring 2020 session, the Virginia General Assembly passed House Bill 145 and Senate Bill 161 amending Virginia code to address issues regarding the treatment of transgender and other gender-expansive students in public schools. Virginia Department of Education then published a model policy for school divisions.

Regulation 2603, which was developed by division staff in 2020 as an extension of the School Board’s nondiscrimination policy, provides support for students with an equitable, safe, and supportive school environment.