Published August 18, 2021
The local school board in Loudoun County, Va., has enacted a permissive gender-identity policy, which allows students to use restrooms and locker rooms, as well as compete in sports, on the basis of the gender with which they identify rather than their biological sex.
Last week, seven school-board members — Beth Barts, Denise Corbo, Leslee King, Harris Mahedavi, Atoosa Reaser, Brenda Sheridan, and Ian Serotkin — voted to approve the new policy, while two, Jeffrey Morse and John Beatty, voted against it.
Both Beatty and Morse said they opposed the policy in part because parents in the district hadn’t had enough time to share their concerns with the school board. Morse said he believed “most of our constituents had not a clue this was being passed.”
The school board began working on the new rules earlier this year, after the Virginia General Assembly passed a bill requiring local school boards to craft policies promoting respect for the rights of transgender students. The state bill allowed local discretion as to how such a policy might be written and enforced.
At least one public-school teacher in Loudoun County has already quit her job since the board approved the new policy, which also requires teachers to use students’ preferred pronouns as opposed to those that reflect their sex, without requiring students to offer “any substantiating evidence” of their new gender identity.
Under the new policy, teachers would not be punished for what are deemed “inadvertent slips,” in which they might use a student’s given name or biological pronoun by accident. “Intentionally and persistently” doing so would be considered a violation.
Laura Morris, who has been teaching in Loudoun County for several years, quit her job publicly at a school-board hearing to discuss the policy. Morris told the board that she had “struggled with the idea of returning to school knowing that I’ll be working yet again with a school division that . . . promotes political ideologies that do not square with who I am as a believer in Christ.”
Morris added that she felt the school board no longer valued her or other teachers who share her viewpoint, and she alleged that teachers had received an email asking them to report colleagues who opposed the new policy either in public or in private.
Earlier this year, Loudoun County public-school teacher Tanner Cross was suspended from his job at Leesburg Elementary School after stating at a school-board meeting that his Christian faith precluded him from using a student’s preferred pronouns, because doing so would constitute lying to students.
Cross has since sued Loudoun County Public Schools, arguing that the district violated his First Amendment free-speech rights by suspending him for sharing his views about the policy. A judge has already ruled in his favor, requiring the school board to reinstate him, and the case is headed to the Virginia supreme court.
Unsurprisingly, Loudoun County’s policy has received plenty of favorable, if misleading, coverage from media outlets. A Washington Post report declared that Loudoun County had “approved guidelines on transgender student rights,” a question-begging headline better fit for an opinion column. CNN “social discovery producer” Alisha Ebrahimji, meanwhile, described the new policy as “an inclusive policy for transgender and gender-expansive students.” Her article asserts that
advocates have called “biological sex” an oversimplistic and misleading term that refers to the sex as listed on students’ original birth certificates. While sex is a category that refers broadly to physiology, a person’s gender is an innate sense of identity. The factors that go into determining the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate may include anatomy, genetics and hormones, and there is broad natural variation in each of these categories.
Over at CNN, reporters continue to struggle with refraining from injecting these sorts of opinion claims into their articles while attempting to disguise them as fact. In March, a CNN news writer claimed that “there’s no way to determine a child’s ‘gender identity’ at birth.”
“It’s not possible to know a person’s gender identity at birth, and there is no consensus criteria for assigning sex at birth,” the writer asserted.
But of course, for all of human history, we’ve all relied on a simple way of knowing a child’s sex at birth. The notion of “assigning” sex at birth isn’t based on any “consensus criteria.” It’s a purely ideological concept invented by activists to advance their radical, unscientific redefinition of sex and gender.
Ignoring the reasonable opposition of parents and teachers, and disregarding the costs especially to young women enrolled in their public schools, the Loudoun County school board has staked its claim with the gender ideologues.
Alexandra DeSanctis is a staff writer for National Review and a visiting fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.