Special to WorldTribune.com
Some parents within Fairfax County are beginning to wake up to the realization that the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) are planning to impose radical gender identity practices and supporting “Family Life Education” curriculum changes within the 185K+ school system.
Many of these now-aware parents don’t like what they see, including biological boys changing in girls’ locker rooms, showering with girls, competing on their sports teams, and sleeping with them on overnights.
They also don’t like the Obama Administration’s illegally applying Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972 to transgender students, changing a law originally designed to protect girls to one that will inevitably inflict trauma on girls. And they don’t like FCPS buckling before the federal government’s threat to remove a $42 million subsidy for failure to comply with this misguided policy.
These sentiments rang out clearly among 225+ interested FCPS parents at St. Raymond of Pinafort Catholic Church in Springfield on Aug. 17 who turned out to hear Mary E. McAlister, Senior Litigation Counsel at Liberty Counsel, discuss the status of gender identity and transgender practices being considered for the school system and what parents can do to oppose implementation of these practices.
Liberty Counsel, with offices in Orlando, Lynchburg, and Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit law firm dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family. Liberty Counsel is presently representing a group of parents against FCPS on the issue of the Board’s impermissible addition of sexual orientation and gender identity to its non-discrimination policy.
Mychele Brickner, an eight-year former member of the Fairfax County School Board, and Andrea Lafferty, President of the Traditional Values Coalition, organized the meeting, which was held in St. Raymond’s basement parish hall.
At issue is FCPS’s stated desire to implement a draft regulation “To establish procedures and guidelines for schools to support gender non-conforming and transgender students.”
The Democrat-dominated School Board had sprung the regulation on parents with no warning over the July 4th weekend and scheduled it for quick “housekeeping” approval by the full Board without public hearings.
In the face of some activist opposition, the School Board decided to table the implementation until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether to review a transgender case from Gloucester County, VA.
Among other guidance, the six-page draft regulation calls for gender non-conforming and transgender students:
To be “provided with the option of using a locker room or restroom consistent with the student’s gender identity.”
To be able to participate in “School-sponsored clubs, activities, and sports (other than those sponsored by the Virginia High School League) … in accordance with the the student’s gender identity.”
In short, practices that authorize adolescent boys (male biological sex) who identify as females 1) to share locker room facilities with adolescent girls—presumably with some sort of likely sanctions or punishments doled out to students who object to this practice; and 2) to compete against girls in non-Virginia High School League-sanctioned sports—apparently without concerns about injuries to the less physical girls.
In her 30-minute talk, Ms. McAlister provided relevant background on recent law and court developments regarding gender identity practices within public schools across Virginia:
Congress has turned down opportunities to expand Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law originally established to protect women against sexual discrimination in schools that receive federal funding, to cover gender identity discrimination. The requirement has been for separate bathrooms for the sexes, as long as they are equal. Likewise, “Title VII” that addresses employment civil rights has historically applied to biological sex only.
Virginia state law on non-discrimination does not include provisions on gender identity and sexual discrimination. As a local government within a “Dillon Rule” state, the Fairfax County Government and its governing bodies derive their authority from the state government and have only limited powers not directly conferred on them by the state.
In the past, the Virginia General Assembly has specifically declined to include gender identity in groups to be protected by non-discrimination laws. While previous state Attorneys General have acknowledged the supremacy of the Dillon Rule, current state Attorney General Paul Herring has interpreted the Dillon Rule “broadly” as it applies to gender identity non-discrimination policy-making by local governments. His interpretation is the basis for the FCPS assuming legal authority on gender identity discrimination in the schools.
- Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit against the FCPS’s 2015 gender protection policy, but the Fairfax District Court ruled against it on procedural grounds. Liberty Counsel has petitioned the Virginia Supreme Court and is awaiting an anticipated end-of-August decision.
- Virginia’s Gloucester General District Court ruled against the plaintiffs in a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of parents of a transgender student in Gloucester County seeking to use bathrooms of the opposite biological sex. However, upon ACLU’s appeal of that decision, two of three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit said in April 2016 the District Court should pay more attention to the Department of Education’s guidance on this topic. The U.S. Supreme Court placed an emergency stay on the the 4th Circuit’s decision pending a decision whether to hear the case in that court.
- Nationally, gender identity discrimination law is not settled. Twenty-four states have filed lawsuits against the Obama Administration’s policies and practices promoting sexual identity protections.
Ms. McAlister minced no words in expressing her opposition to the gender identity/transgender movement within the public schools.
She cited a study by Dr. Paul McHugh, a former chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, that concludes there is no scientific basis for one’s “gender identity” being independent of one’s biological sex. No objective standard for gender identity exists. Nevertheless, the federal Department of Education is encouraging the concept that gender identity is “fluid” and students should accept, and even explore, such fluidity.
Ms. McAlister warned about both the “postraumatic disorder” that girls will experience from sharing bathrooms and locker rooms with boys and the adverse effects that such a “hostile learning environment” will have on their academic progress.
She advocates expressing compassion for students with a “transgender condition.” But, just as it was not “compassionate” to students in past times not to affirm the medical condition of anorexia, it not “compassionate” to deny affirming transgender sexual orientation as a medical condition worthy of professional attention.
During an extensive question-and-answer period, Ms. McAlister, Ms. Brickner, and Ms. Lafferty presented the following additional points in response to a long queue of parents that formed quickly to pose questions and comments:
- The FCPS has been slow in responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for documents relating to its gender identity and transgender polices and implementing regulations. This is consistent with FCPS’s historical record of being notoriously slow in responding to FOIA requests.
- As it stands now, in school athletic contests a school system will have to honor the transgender eligibility policies of the opposing school system. This means even if a school system disallows transgender boys to play on girls teams, those girls teams may have to compete against teams comprised of transgender students.
- The emotional distress felt by students from this gender identity “hostile environment” may be grounds for parental lawsuits.
If parents object to their child being taught by a transgender teacher, they likely will have no options for moving their child to another class within the school and may very well have to take their child out of the school.
- FCPS’s Family Life Education (FLE) curriculum has a gender identity script for teachers to follow, but it’s not unreasonable to expect that some teachers may stray into advocating their own views.
- Parents who oppose these gender identity policies and practices may very well want to “pre-organize” a protest or a class action suit.
- Parents who oppose this transgender and gender identity movement should “opt out” their children from classes on these topics in the FLE curriculum and send a letter or message to the school explaining the reasons for their “opt out” decision so school authorities start understanding parental concerns.
- Parents should review FCPS’s FLE curriculum so they can make an informed decision about its appropriateness for their child. They can see the content of their child’s FLE classes on FCPS’s “Blackboard.” According to Ms. Lafferty, oral sex is mentioned in the 7th grade, anal sex is discussed in the 8th grade, and students are told they don’t have to discuss their sex decisions with their parents in the 9th and 10th grades.
- Parents and students can, without penalty, refuse to sign the annual Students’ Rights and Responsibilities (SR&R) acknowledgement form stating they agree with the “code of conduct” for students. The law says nothing about a penalty for unsigned forms. Instead, parents should write a note on the form expressing their opposition to the gender identity and transgender policies that will potentially open up bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams to students of both biological sexes. To facilitate expression of opposition, Liberty Counsel has prepared a form that parents can attach or print on the reverse of the SR&R form.
- Liberty Counsel recently sent another letter to FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza and the School Board putting them on notice that parents planned to attach a form explaining they do not want their children to be taught gender identity material in SR&R discussions at the start of school. The form goes on to state parents do not want their children: 1) to be required to agree with the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity as a prerequisite to participation in any extracurricular school programs that require signing a participation policy to abide by all SR&R provisions, and 2) to be denied a locker or other school resources if the SR&R form is not signed.
Unlike the relatively brief public hearings and shallow, controlled discussions addressing gender identity at recent Fairfax County School Board meetings, the meeting at St. Raymond’s reviewed numerous points about the development of gender identity non-discrimination laws, policies, and practices and raised numerous issues relevant to implementation of gender identity non-discrimination practices within FCPS.
Kudos to Ms. Brickner and Ms. Lafferty for organizing a forum that provided informed material on gender identity and an open environment for parents to seek understanding of this controversial subject and their rights and options in dealing with it.
Tim Hannigan is the President of Hannigan Enterprises, LLC. A former Marine officer and Vice President of various Government contracting companies, he has written, edited, and published military campaign analyses, military plans, defense policy studies, and government proposals on a wide variety of subjects. He and his family have resided in Fairfax County since 1991.