Democrats and LGBTQ advocates are slamming recent remarks from Gov. Glenn Youngkin calling on educators to inform parents about a student’s gender identity or sexual orientation.
Del. Shelly Simonds, a member of the House Education Committee, said youth with unsupportive families could be abused or kicked out of their homes if they were outed by teachers.
“I think people don’t realize that policies like this could put children in real danger at home,” said Simonds, D-Newport News. “This is a real safety issue for children.”
During an interview this week, Youngkin was asked for his thoughts regarding schools that withhold information from parents about a student’s gender identity or sexual orientation, and whether he believes the Virginia Board of Education should pass new guidance on the issue.
The board currently advises schools to respect the privacy of students who are openly LGBTQ at school but don’t want to share that with their parents.
“I think everybody knows where I stand; parents matter,” Youngkin said. “Parents should be at the forefront of all of these discussions. And I firmly believe that teachers and schools have an obligation to make sure that parents are well informed about what’s happening in their kids’ lives.”
The governor added that parents were tired of being “pushed to the background” by schools.
The governor recently appointed new members to the Board of Education, meaning it’s possible new recommendations about the disclosure of students’ LGBTQ status to parents could be coming, Simonds said.
But she hopes that won’t be the case.
“We have a crisis in education caused by the pandemic, we are losing teachers everyday, so we’re going to do something that is disruptive to the school environment? It’s outrageous,” she said.
Del. Glenn Davis, chair of the House Education Committee, agrees with the governor.
LGBTQ youth are at an above-average risk of struggling with various mental health challenges, he said, meaning school policies that prevent or discourage teachers from discussing such matters with parents could put a student’s well-being in jeopardy.
“I think it is every parent’s responsibility and desire to be there for their children especially during the most difficult of times,” said Davis, R-Virginia Beach. “If a parent is not made aware of the challenges that their child is facing, then it is difficult for them to provide an environment of support.”
Other legislators also weighed in on the issue on social media.
Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, an educator, and Del. Danica Roem, the first openly transgender state legislator in the nation, both decried the governor’s remarks.
“I’m a teacher. I would never out a kid. Ever. My job is to help them thrive,” VanValkenburg, a Henrico County Democrat, wrote on Twitter.
Roem, D-Manassas, urged the governor to speak with LGBTQ youth who were now homeless after being outed to their parents.
Bora, a 14-year-old student who identifies as LGBTQ, believes teenagers should have the right to decide when or if their parents are informed about their sexuality or gender identify.
Bora is a member of the Pride Liberation Project, a student-led coalition in Virginia that advocates for the state’s LGBTQ youth. She requested to have her last name withheld because she has not come out to her parents.
She would “face consequences” at home if her parents found out, she explained. But she feels comfortable being open with her friends and some teachers.
“School is a safe space for me, I can be myself there” she said. “I think it’s cruel that the governor would endanger students for political points.”