Harrisonburg school board meeting draws large crowd over Gov. Youngkin’s model policies on transgender students

Published: Nov. 1, 2022 at 10:49 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - After students at Harrisonburg High School held a walkout Tuesday afternoon in response to Governor Glenn Youngkin’s model policies on transgender and non-binary students in public schools, many people walked into the Harrisonburg School Board meeting later that evening.

During the public comment period, an overwhelming majority of speakers voiced their support of Gov. Youngkin’s policies and want to keep the discussion of gender and sexuality out of schools.

“So much of our focus is on sexuality,” one public speaker said. “I thought school was about reading, writing, and arithmetic.”

One student at HHS spoke about being put in uncomfortable situations at school when asked to call classmates by their preferred pronouns.

“Many students like me are put into uncomfortable situations where they are forced to comply with the request of another party to call them by a specific pronoun that is against their personal beliefs. My question is, do you have the legal power to dictate what comes out of our mouths?” he said.

The speakers were from many different religions, cultures, and backgrounds. Some said asking people to address others by certain pronouns, sharing restrooms with transgender and non-binary students, or having LGBTQ discussions in school goes against their personal, religious, or cultural beliefs.

“These things are kind of poisonous, in my opinion, and the question is why should we put this stuff in our kid’s mind,” another public speaker said.

Dozens of people spoke in favor of adopting the model policies, while only a handful opposed it.

“Harrisonburg is doing the right thing by allowing students to be themselves and having supports in place for those students because you have no idea the effect it has on the LGBTQ+ community to not feel accepted and loved, especially growing up,” one teacher at Keister Elementary School said.

“I think the things that LGBTQ+ kids, staff, and teachers are hearing tonight are probably very painful. I want them to hear that there are adults that love and support them,” a public speaker said.

The discussion of inappropriate or sexual books in school libraries was also a topic of discussion for a few speakers.

Families around the commonwealth had the opportunity to comment on those proposed policies. That window closed last week and now the Virginia Education Department will review the comments.

If the policies are adopted, all Virginia schools will have to comply.