Christian Action Network submits FOIA request over Virginia’s proposed ‘Model Policies’ on transgender students

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Christian Action Network filed a 'Freedom of Information Request' with the State of Virginia over its proposed 'Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in the Public Schools.'

Below is the Freedom of Information Request filed by Christian Action Network with Virginia’s Department of Education seeking records, communications, and supporting evidence for its proposed guidelines called, ‘Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Schools.’

For background on the proposed policies read Martin Mawyer’s article, “Students in Virginia could be charged for failing to address transgender peers with their preferred pronouns”

February 22, 2021

To: Rebecca S. Askew, Policy Office, Virginia Department of Education

Subject: Freedom of Information request

Please provide the complete administrative records to date for the adoption of proposed guidance titled Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public School.  If there are additions to the administrative record after this request, please supplement the response when the administrative record is complete.

As per § 2.2-3700 et seq. of the Code of Virginia, please provide all written communications (electronic, paper, text messaging, emails) between the Virginia Department of Education and the following acknowledged contributors to the Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools.

Amy Aussiker, Ph.D., School Psychologist, Carroll County Public Schools

Jane Ball, School Social Worker, Hanover County Public Schools

Anthony Belotti, Student Representative

Jennifer Boysko, State Senator, Virginia Senate

Erica Brown-Meredith, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Longwood University, Virginia Association of School Social Workers

L. Frances Brown, School Psychologist (retired), Henrico County Public Schools

Zoe Campa, Student Representative

Shannon Campbell, School Nurse, Montgomery County Public Schools, Virginia Association of School Nurses

Holly Coy, Assistant Superintendent, Department of Policy, Equity & Communications, Virginia Department of Education

Daniel Dunham, Military Student and Family Specialist, Office of Student Services, Virginia Department of Education

Quyen Duong, Student Services Specialist, Office of Student Services, Virginia Department of Education

Tammy D. Gilligan, Ph.D., Professor and Director of School Psychology Program, James Madison University

Herbertia Gilmore, Title IX Coordinator, Office of Equity & Employee Relations, Fairfax County Public Schools

Katheryn Harrison, Treasurer, Virginia PTA

Samantha Hollins, Ph. D., Assistant Superintendent, Department of Special Education and Student Services

Barbara Kannine, School Board Member, Arlington County Pblic Schools, Virginia School Boards Association

Scott Kizner, Ph.D., Superintendent, Stafford County Public Schools, Virginia Association of School Superintendents

Vee Lamneck, Executive Director, Equality Virginia

Ted Lewis, Executive Director, Side by Side

Shannon McKay, Co-founder, He She Ze & We

Shekila Melchior, Ph. D., Assistant Professor, George Mason University, Virginia Alliance for School Counseling

Chuck Mos, Principal, Dinwiddie Middle School, Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals

Cardell Patillo, School Board Member, Portsmouth City School Board, Virginia School Boards Association

Patricia Popp, Ph. D.,Project HOPE-VA State Coordinator, Clinical Associate Professor, William & Mary School of Education

John Riofrio, Parent Representative

Maribel Saimre, Director, Office of Student Services, Virginia Department of Education

Leslie Sale, Ph.D., Director of Policy, Office of Policy, Virginia Department of Education

Darrell Sampson, Director of K-12 School Counseling, Alexandria City Public Schools, Virginia School Counseling Association

Emily Sproul, Executive Director, Shenandoah LGBTQ Center

Matthew Stanley, Director of Advocacy and Outreach, Office of Engagement, Richmond Public Schools

Andrea Tetreault, Chief of Staff for Delegate Marcus Simon, Virginia House of Delegates

Emily Webb, Director, Office of Board Relations, Virginia Department of Education

Joseph Wharff, Associate Director, Office of Student Services, Virginia Department of Education

As per § 2.2-3700 et seq. of the Code of Virginia, please provide all material that will support the following “evidence” questions.

EVIDENCE FOIA QUESTIONS:

Each of the following requests relates to the Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools.

  1. Please provide the evidentiary basis for the model policies as “best practices” with respect to the risks of harm or lack of risks of harm to the majority population of students.
  2. Other than public opinion polling, what evidence supports: “Because of societal prejudice and lack of awareness or understanding, transgender students may experience rejection, criticism, or bullying, that affect their emotional health and academic achievement.” A) What statistical methodology was employed in the cited 2019 GLSEN national survey cited on page 9.
  3. Other than public opinion polling, what evidence supports the claim: “LGBTQ+ students experience higher levels of victimization because of their gender identity and/or gender expression and have more adverse outcomes compared to their cisgender and heterosexual peers.” B) What statistical methodology was employed in the cited Human Rights Campaign Foundation survey cited on page 9.
  4. Please provide a copy of a “recent study” that “found that socially transitioned transgender children who are supported in their gender identity have no elevations in depression and only minimal elevations in anxiety relative to population averages. (Olson, Durwood, DeMeules, & McLaughlin 2016) (page 9)
  5. Please provide source material for the statement: “According to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), gender-based harassment may include acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex stereotyping, when these acts create a hostile environment and deny or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the educational program (OCR, 2001). (page 10)
  6. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the claim in the proposed Model Policies that “verbal harassment” is “the intentional and persistent use of names and pronouns not consistent with their identity.” (page 10)
  7. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies that “concerns brought by students, families, and staff when their concerns are not resolved at the school level” are not being heard. (Page 10)
  8. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies that “Many transgender students undergo the process of gender transition to confirm and live as the gender consistent with their gender identity.” (Page 11)
  9. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies that there is a “risk of harm” to transgender students who are not “treated consistent with their gender identity.” (Page 11)
  10. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies to determine that protecting transgender “students’ privacy is critical to ensuring that they are treated consistent with their gender identity and minimizing the risk of harm to the students.” (page 11)
  11. Other than public opinion polling Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies to support the declaration: “Disclosing a student’s transgender status can pose imminent safety risks, such as losing family support or housing.”
  12. Please provide any peer review studies of the Morton, Dworsky, & Samuels 2017 student cited on page 12 regarding the 120% chance of homelessness among LGBT youth.
  13. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies to support the proposed policy public schools not sharing a student’s transgender status with parents as a “best practice”? (Page 12)
  14. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies to support the “daily emotional and psychosocial wellness of transgender students depends on receiving support and recognition for their gender identity.” (page 12)
  15. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies in the proposed Model Policies to support the declaration that “School divisions should accept a student’s assertion of their gender identity without requiring any particular substantiating evidence, including diagnosis, treatment, or legal documents” as a “best practice.” (page 12)
  16. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies to support the statement that, “A student is considered transgender if, at school, the student consistently asserts a gender identity different from the sex assigned at birth.” (page 12)
  17. Please provide the evidence or legal authority supports the contention that: “A school employee’s intentional and persistent refusal to respect a student’s asserted name and pronoun is considered discriminatory.” (page 12)
  18. Please provide the Ryan, Russell, Huebner, Diaz, & Sanchez, 2010 research supposedly showing that transgender youth with supportive families experience a 52 percent decrease in recent suicidal thoughts and 46 percent decrease in suicide attempts. (Page 13) and confirm whether it was peer-reviewed.
  19. Please provide the Russell, Pollitt, Li, & Grossman, 2018 research that a “chosen name used in more contexts was associated with lower depression, suicidal ideation, and suicidal behavior.” (Page 13) and confirm whether it was peer-reviewed.
  20. Please provide definitions used for the words “abused, neglected” regarding a parent and their transgender child’s care. (page 13) and the evidence supporting those definitions.
  21. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies to that “inadvertently disclosing the student’s transgender identify” could “cause potential emotional trauma for a transgender student.” (page 14)
  22. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies to support a need to “develop solutions to support a transgender student’s wishes for privacy.” (page 14)
  23. P Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies to for a need to “eliminate gender markers from their forms, documents, and records when feasible.” (page 14)
  24. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies to on a need for the “expanded gender choices to include nonbinary as a third option if the student or parent wishes to use this option.” (page 14)
  25. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies to for a need for changing the name and gender records of former students. (page 14)
  26. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies to that dress or grooming codes “ensure the health and safety of students and can reduce a hostile or intimidating atmosphere for students.” (page 15)
  27. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies to support the conclusion that hairstyles, “should encompass broad guidelines that are not gender specific and free of gender stereotypes.” (page 15)
  28. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies that transgender students have a “right” to dress in a manner consistent with their gender identity or gender expression. (page 15)
  29. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies that eliminating gender-specific attire relating to school activities and events will have a positive impact on transgenders. (page 15)
  30. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies that formal attire will have a negative impact on transgenders if schools “specify that girls must wear dresses and boys must wear ties.” (page 15)
  31. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies used to determine that “Gender-based policies, rules, and practices can have the effect of marginalizing, stigmatizing, and excluding students…” (page 16)
  32. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies for the conclusion “the composition of choruses should be gender-inclusive and based only on vocal range or quality requirements.” (page 16)
  33. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies leading to the conclusion “students should be allowed to participate in a manner consistent with their gender identity.” (page 16)
  34. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies to support the conclusion: “Students should be allowed to use the facility that corresponds to their consistently asserted gender identity.” (page 17)
  35. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies that “It can be emotionally harmful for a transgender student to be questioned regarding the use of restrooms and facilities.” (page 17)
  36. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies for why menstrual supplies need to “be made available in all bathrooms to be gender-inclusive.” (page 17)
  37. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies that “a positive school climate” is solved with the incorporation of “regular education about transgender students into staff professional development and training.” (page 18)
  38. Please provide the GLSEN, 2019 study that “80 percent of SMHPs received little to no competency training in their graduate programs related to working with transgender populations, and 37 percent had not received any formal education or training on LGBTQ-specific student issues during their professional careers” (page 18) and confirm whether it was peer-reviewed.
  39. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the statement in the proposed Model Policies to support the conclusion, “school divisions should provide training to all school staff, including but not limited to custodial staff, administrative support staff, substitute teachers, school nurses, and bus drivers.” (page 18)
  40. Va Code §22.1-23.3 requires that the model policies adopted be “evidence based best practices.” What is the definition or what criteria are used to define “best practice”?

As per § 2.2-3700 et seq. of the Code of Virginia, please provide all material that will support the following “evidence” questions.

Bullying:

  1. Please supply the evidence that supports your conclusion that the following is a “best practice” as opposed to the comprehensive 2013 model policies on bullying that protected all students, including transgender students.

The [School Division] prohibits any and all discrimination, harassment, and bullying based on an individual’s actual or perceived race, color, national original, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or any other characteristic protected by law.

Any incident or complaint of discrimination, harassment, or bullying shall be given prompt attention, including investigating the incident and taking appropriate corrective action, by the school administrator. Complaints alleging discrimination, harassment, or bullying based on a student’s actual or perceived transgender status shall be handled in the same manner as other discrimination or harassment complaints. The [School Division’s Designated Contact] shall be available to hear concerns from students or parents when complaints are not resolved at the school level

Student Privacy/ Confidentiality

  1. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the conclusion that the following model policy is a “best practice” specifically including (1) treating the legal name as confidential and violating FERPA by hiding a student’s transgender issues from the student’s parents:

All school personnel shall adhere to legal standards of confidentiality relating to information about a student’s transgender status, legal name, or gender assigned at birth.

In addition to adhering to all legal standards of confidentiality, school personnel shall treat information relating to a student’s transgender status as being particularly sensitive, shall not disclose it to other students and parents, and shall only disclose to other school personnel with a legitimate educational interest. [Emphasis added.]

Student Identification

  1. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the conclusion that the following model policy (which apparently violates the Virginia name change statute) is a “best practice”:

Schools shall allow students to assert a name and gender pronouns that reflect their gender identity without any substantiating evidence. School staff shall, at the request of a student or parent, address the student using the asserted name and pronoun that correspond to their gender identity.

School Records

  1. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the conclusion that the following model policy which apparently keeps confidential a student’s legal name which is a matter of public record is a “best practice”:

[School Division] is required to maintain a record that includes a student’s legal name and sex assigned at birth and may be required to use or report the legal name and sex assigned at birth in some situations. In situations where school staff is required to use or to report a transgender student’s legal name or sex assigned at birth, such as for purposes of standardized testing, school staff and administrators should adopt practices to avoid the inadvertent disclosure of such information.

Upon the request of a student or parent, schools shall use the asserted name and gender on other school records or documents.

Schools shall change a student’s name and gender designation upon verification or submission of a legal document such as a birth certificate, state- or federal-issued identifications, passport, or court order. Records of former students may also be re-issued with the submission of legal documents substantiating the amended name and gender.

Dress Code

  1. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the conclusion that the following model policy is a “best practice”:

Dress and grooming codes shall be written relating to the attire or articles of attire without limits on gender expectations. Students have a right to dress in a manner consistent with their gender identity or gender expression. Schools shall administer and enforce dress and grooming codes consistently across the student body, regardless of actual or perceived gender identity or gender expression.

Requirements for attire for school-related programs, activities, and events shall be gender-neutral.

Access to Facilities and Activities

  1. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the conclusion that the following model policy is a “best practice” for the safety of students to the extent that is allows unquestioned access to opposite sex bathroom facilities, shower and changing facilities, and sleeping facilities and that it forces heterosexual students to affirmatively assert their privacy rights against the intrusion by biologically opposite persons and further that school personnel are forbidden to question an opposite sex person entering such facilities:

Schools shall eliminate or reduce the practice of segregating students by gender to the extent possible.

For any school program, event, or activity, including extra-curricular activities that are segregated by gender, [School Division] shall allow students to participate in a manner consistent with their gender identity.

Athletic participation regulated by the Virginia High School League (VHSL) or another organization such as the Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association (VASRA), as well as middle school athletics, shall be in compliance with policies and rules outlined by those organizations.

Access to facilities such as restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to a student’s gender identity shall be available to all students.

Upon request, single-user, gender-inclusive facilities or other reasonable alternatives shall be made available to any student who seeks privacy. Any options offered shall be non-stigmatizing and minimize lost instructional time.

  1. Also, please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support your unstated assumption that is a best practice to require heterosexual students to request bodily privacy and that requirement is non-stigmatizing to the heterosexual student.

Professional Development and Training

  1. Please provide the evidence on which VDOE relies to support the conclusion that the following model policy which addresses only LGBTQ+ students is a “best practice” for transgender students:

All school mental health professionals shall be trained annually on topics relating to LGBTQ+ students, including safety and support for LGBTQ+ students.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Sincerely,

Martin Mawyer, President, Christian Action Network

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