Lawsuit dropped after school board changes course, adopts Youngkin’s transgender student policy

Oct 18, 2023, 12:50 PM

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Washington-based attorney confirmed Wednesday his firm was dropping litigation it filed last month regarding Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s new policies on transgender students because the school board his firm sued has since adopted guidelines consistent with the governor’s.

But the firm could potentially still bring other litigation in districts that are bucking the administration’s guidance, said Charles Cooper of Cooper & Kirk, which is widely known for its work on conservative legal causes.

Attorneys from the firm represented two parents who sued the Virginia Beach School Board seeking the enforcement of Youngkin’s policies, which roll back many accommodations for transgender students urged by the previous Democratic administration.

The policies have prompted an outcry from LGBTQ advocates and Democratic lawmakers, who say they codify discrimination and could harm an already vulnerable population. Republicans, religious groups and other advocates have praised the new policies, saying they protect the rights of parents in their children’s education.

The lawsuit was filed after a proposed Virginia Beach school board resolution to adopt the policies was introduced and failed in August. But the school board has since reconsidered, adopting policies the district says are consistent with the governor’s.

The plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the case this week, Cooper said.

“We applaud the Virginia Beach School Board for its action last week in adopting transgender policies that protect the rights of all parents and students,” the governor added in a statement.

The school district said in a statement provided by spokesperson David Schleck that the board’s vote was not related to any impending lawsuit involving the governor’s policies.

Under the new Youngkin administration guidelines, teachers and students have the right to refer to a transgender student by the name and pronouns associated with their sex assigned at birth. The policies also say that students who are minors must be referred to by the names and pronouns in their official records unless a parent approves the use of something else.

The policies call for school systems’ sports teams to be organized by the sex assigned at birth, meaning that transgender girls would be unable to participate on girls’ sports teams. And they say school divisions may not encourage teachers to conceal information about a student’s gender from his or her parents.

The Virginia Beach School Board had “grappled” with the model policies since their approval in mid-July, trying to reach consensus on meeting the community’s needs while following the administration’s guidance, the district’s statement said.

The revised regulations, which are “consistent” with the governor’s, will go into effect at the start of the second quarter grading period, Nov. 8, according to the statement.

Youngkin and Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares have said school boards must adopt the new rules. But the state law that required the administration to proffer the guidelines is silent on enforcement.

The model policies developed by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration were greeted favorably by advocates for transgender students, but many school boards did not adopt them. At the time, the Department of Education told school districts failing to comply that they assumed all legal risks for noncompliance.

As under the Northam administration, school boards across the state have taken varied approaches to Youngkin’s guidance. Some have adopted the policies while others, particularly in more liberal jurisdictions, have not.

Cooper said he couldn’t say with certainty that his law firm would file suit elsewhere. But he said he suspected there would be other schools boards that are “more dug in on revisiting the model policies” and that his firm would be ready to assist.

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Lawsuit dropped after school board changes course, adopts Youngkin’s transgender student policy