By Linda Cicoira
Accomack School Board members rehashed Virginia’s transgender student policy Tuesday night
Last month, the panel turned down a proposal in a tie vote. The issue appeared to come back for another vote because of the state mandate that requires affirmative action take place in each school district. In the end, the board voted unanimously to put off another vote until members can work out exactly how the use of restrooms and locker rooms will be handled by the 11 schools.
The previous vote was 4-4 with Malcolm White abstaining. Voting in favor were Chairman Paul Bull and Members Ronnie Holden, Gary Reese, and Jesse Speidel. Members Janet Turner, Camesha Handy, Edward Taylor, and Lisa Johnson were opposed.
Handy said Monday that a policy should be written with Accomack County in mind. She said her primary concern was the “safety of everybody’s child … I want this to be right before I say ‘Yes.’ If it’s in writing, it cannot be disputed,” she added.
Taylor wanted more descriptive language to be used in the policy. “I’m worried about the safety of transgender students … as well as others,” he said. Turner also wanted more details in writing.
Chairman Bull said he had no problem with pausing. However, he added, “We cannot do anything … The rights are there today … It’s a law.”
“Our insurance will not cover us if we do not have a policy in place,” said Reese.
Holden said the individuals on the “front line” will implement procedures. “It’s going to take development, (and) renovating on this end. Let’s get the ball rolling … We can’t do anything unless we have a policy,” he contended.
Longtime school activist Connie Burford attended and went live with a video on Facebook so people at home could see and hear what was happening. The county’s live feed did not appear to be working.
The state department of education’s model policies require the use of students’ preferred names and pronouns and to adopt gender-neutral dress codes. The model says trans students should have access to the restrooms and changing rooms consistent with their gender identity, while noting that some will prefer a more private option and that such options should be available to both trans and cisgender students, so no one is singled out for stigma.