Virginia sued over guidance on transgender public school students

By Thomson Reuters Feb 15, 2024 | 3:07 PM

By Brendan Pierson

(Reuters) – Two transgender Virginia public school students on Thursday sued the state over recent guidance that prevents transgender students from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender identities and allows teachers to refuse to use their preferred names and pronouns.

One of the cases was filed in state court by a transgender high school girl in York County, who said she was “singled out” by one teacher who refused to use her name and pronouns and instead used only her last name.

The other case was brought in state court by a transgender middle school girl who said she has been barred from participating in a girls’ sports team.

Both lawsuits allege that the guidance, which was issued last year by Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration, runs afoul of a 2020 law requiring the state’s Department of Education to develop policies that protect transgender students’ rights. They are asking the courts to set aside the policies.

The Department of Education and Youngkin’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Youngkin’s policy, which has drawn pushback from some districts in the state, also says students must use bathrooms corresponding to their sex assigned at birth, and that teachers may not use transgender students’ preferred names and pronouns without permission from their parents.

Thursday’s lawsuits join several others in courts around the country over school policies affecting transgender students. Virginia’s highest court in December revived a lawsuit by a high school French teacher who was fired for refusing on religious grounds to use a transgender student’s preferred pronouns.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is weighing whether to revive a lawsuit by parents challenging a Massachusetts school district’s policy of not telling parents if their children have begun using different names or pronouns at school. The 4th Circuit rejected a challenge by parents to a similar policy in a Maryland school district last August.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis)