ASHBURN, Va. — After weeks of controversy and hours of public comment, the Loudoun County Public School Board has approved a transgender rights policy for students.
Beginning this school year (2021-2022), teachers will have to call students by the pronouns they identify with.
It's a big win for LGBTQ supporters, who have been pushing for more inclusivity for years.
“This means that they have a chance to go back to school, feel safe, feel accepted and feel affirmed," Cris Candice Tuck said. "They no longer have to worry about the bullying and the harassment. They don't have to fight with staff about which restroom to use...they can just be an average normal student without all of this hanging over their head.”
Tuck is part of the group Equality Loudoun and has kids who attend LCPS. They stood up in Wednesday's meeting and silently cheered, holding up signs, after the board voted in favor.
"We are elated. We are over the moon," they said.
It passed with a couple of amendments, including, requiring all LCPS staff members to receive training on the new rules instead of just mental health professionals, and modernizing student bathrooms to be more private and safe as they construct more individual ones.
The board approved a timeline of five years for the bathroom renovations, which includes the development of a new advisory group that will figure out what's needed.
The decision wasn't unanimous, however. Two board members voted against it, including Jeff Morse.
“Under the guise of inclusivity, we are taking action on a policy that’s unnecessary," he said. "It’s ambiguous, it’s divisive, it’s anti-family, anti-privacy and anti-teacher.”
One teacher, Laura Morris, even quit right in front of the board during Tuesday's public comment section because of it.
“School board, I quit," she said. "I quit your policies. I quit your trainings and I quit being a cog in a machine that tells me to push highly politicized agendas on our most vulnerable constituents, our children.”
She was one of more than 150 people who spoke at Tuesday's meeting. With the public comment section not ending until after 8 p.m., the board voted to reconvene Wednesday.
Ins spite of all the backlash, the board was required to pass a transgender rights policy by the start of the school year, according to a new state law. The law was sponsored by state senator Jennifer Boysko.
“This has turned into some kind of political football to try to frighten families," she said. "What we know is that when students are treated with kindness and respect and given dignity in the classroom, we are all better off.”
Some school systems throughout Virginia have rejected the policy. It is still unclear what -- if any -- legal action they'll face because of it.