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Surry School Board to vote on LGBT policies tonight

Surry County’s School Board is scheduled to vote this evening on policy changes pertaining to LGBT students.

Per state law, school boards have through the end of this month to adopt transgender protections “consistent with” or “more comprehensive than” a series of Virginia Department of Education model policies pertaining to the use of bathrooms and locker rooms, student privacy, bullying and harassment, dress codes and sex-specific school activities, with the exception of athletics, which are governed by the Virginia High School League.

One such VDOE-recommended policy would require school staff to use a transgender student’s preferred name and pronouns. Another aims to restrict whom staff can tell when a student comes out as transgender at school, the goal being to prevent staff from “outing” a student whose parents may be unaware and unsupportive of their child’s transition.

Superintendent Dr. Serbrenia Sims has proposed the School Board add the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of protected classes in the school system’s existing nondiscrimination policy, listed in the policy manual as Policy JB.

She further proposes adding a legal reference to the state’s transgender law, Virginia Code 22.1-23.3, as an addendum to Policy JB and Surry’s equal educational opportunity policy, listed as Policy AD.

Should the School Board agree with Sims’ recommendation and adopt the proposed policy changes, a separate regulation will follow, she said. This regulation, Sims said, will go into specifics regarding bathrooms and the other requirements spelled out in the law, and will be modeled after the VDOE-recommended policies.