A Virginia school board whose heated meeting in June gained national attention has voted to expand the rights of its transgender and gender-expansive students.
The Loudoun County School Board voted Wednesday on a policy that allows transgender student athletes to play on teams based on their gender identity; allows transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity; and requires teachers, faculty and staff to refer to students by their preferred names and pronouns.
Additionally, all school mental health professionals in Loudoun County Public Schools are required to undergo “training on topics relating to LGBTQ+ students, including procedures for preventing and responding to bullying, harassment and discrimination based on gender identity/expression,” according to the new policy.
Failure to follow the new policy will be addressed on a case-by-case basis, Loudoun County Public Schools spokesman Wayde Byard told CNN. There is no formal, blanket consequence, he said.
Byard told CNN affiliate WJLA in June that the proposed transgender policy is consistent with the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies for the treatment of transgender students.
The school board passed the policy 7-2.
“LCPS’ number one priority is to foster the success of all students and ensure they feel safe, secure, accepted and ready to learn at school,” the district said in a news release. “The school division will continue to do its due diligence in creating that environment and remaining open and transparent with all LCPS partners, community members and stakeholders.”
The leader of a local advocacy group praised the action.
“We are elated to know that transgender and gender expansive students will be returning to school with protections that will enable them to learn at their fullest potential,” Cris Candice Tuck, president of Equality Loudoun, told CNN in a statement.
The transgender policy has been a contentious issue for Loudoun County Public Schools. In June, a Virginia judge ruled that the district had to reinstate physical education teacher Tanner Cross, who was suspended after commenting at a school board meeting that he could not address transgender students by their preferred pronouns.
Cross had argued that because of his Christian faith, it would be dishonest to call a child by a pronoun other than their biological sex at birth.
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.
Cross has filed a lawsuit against LCPS, claiming that the school district violated his constitutional right to free speech by placing him on administrative leave following his comments at the board meeting, according to Alliance Defending Freedom, the group that represents Cross in the ongoing legal battle.
The group said Cross is still planning to resume his teaching duties at Leesburg Elementary when the new school year begins August 26, according to WJLA.
The school district has appealed the judge’s decision, Byard told CNN.
In June, the Loudoun County School Board came under fire after chaos erupted during public comment at a board meeting over the proposed transgender policy and claims that critical race theory was being taught in the classroom.
That meeting ended with one person being arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and another person was cited for trespassing.
Retired Republican Sen. Dick Black was among those who blasted the board at the meeting. Black claimed the board was looking to punish opponents of critical race theory.
“You’re teaching children to hate others because of their skin color, and you’re forcing them to lie about other kids’ gender,” Black said. “I am disgusted by your bigotry and your depravity.”
Black also challenged the transgender policy saying, “It’s absurd and immoral for teachers to call boys girls and girls boys.”
After the policy was passed on Wednesday, a former student praised the decision in an interview with WJLA.
“I think one kid who feels like they don’t belong or feels out of place doesn’t have an affirmation by a teacher is too many and I think this policy starts to remedy that,” said Nicholas Gothard, a 2018 LCPS graduate.
CNN’s Joe Sutton, Nicquel Terry Ellis and Boris Sanchez, contributed to this report.