Student Privacy, Parental Rights: State Releases New Model Policies

EdNews Virginia | July 19, 2023

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) issued new model policies for school divisions on Tuesday. A 16-page document, titled Model Policies to Ensure Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools, aims to reverse 2021 Model Policies that diminished the role of parents in their children’s lives.

“Code of Virginia § 22.1-23.3 requires the Virginia Department of Education to adopt model policies concerning the treatment of transgender students in public schools,” a VDOE news release notes. “The Department issues the 2023 Model Policies to provide clear, accurate, and useful guidance to Virginia school boards that align with statutory provisions.”

The Model Policies safeguard parents’ rights with respect to their child. School officials will defer to parents in decisions about a child’s identity, and keep parents informed about their child’s wellbeing. The Model Policies also clarify that a student’s individual needs should be taken into consideration by their school, and schools should attempt to accommodate students with distinctive needs.

— Virginia Department of Education

“There is nothing more important than creating a safe and vibrant learning environment for all our students,” Virginia Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera said on Tuesday. “These policies clarify that parents are the appropriate decision makers regarding their child’s health and wellbeing, and that students are best served when parents, teachers, and school administrators work as a team to support a child’s education. They also affirm that discrimination and bullying of any kind will not be tolerated in Virginia’s public schools.”

In a Tuesday statement, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin welcomed the VDOE’s new model policies. “The Department of Education has delivered policies that empower parents, prohibit discrimination, create a safe and vibrant learning environment by addressing bullying incidents immediately, and protect the privacy and dignity of all students through bathroom policies, athletic procedures, and student identification measures,” the governor said.