Religious Group Sues to Stop State from Forcing Girls to Share School Locker Rooms with Males


A religious group filed a lawsuit on Tuesday challenging Virginia’s new state guidelines on transgender students in public schools, alleging the policies violate parental child-rearing rights and religious freedom.

The lawsuit filed by The Family Foundation of Virginia, the Founding Freedoms Law Center and a parent from Hanover County asks the court to send the policies back to the state Department of Education for revision.

The suit alleges the department failed to adequately respond to complaints that the policies violate the constitutional rights of students, teachers and parents.

The policies state that “access to facilities such as restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to a student’s gender identity shall be available to all students.”

They also say that failure to use a student’s preferred pronouns could be considered harassment and discrimination.

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“We maintain our concerns that these guidelines erase basic parental rights and protection of bodily privacy and safety rights for even our youngest students,” Victoria Cobb, president of The Family Foundation and the Founding Freedoms Law Center, said.

“The constitution of Virginia ensures that the fundamental right of parents to raise their children in accordance with their own beliefs does not simply get erased simply because the state of Virginia chooses to dismiss those rights to fulfill its own ideological agenda,” Cobb said at a news conference.

The lawsuit does not address whether males who identify as female should be allowed to compete on girls’ sports teams in public high schools, a topic of controversy elsewhere in the country.

Sarah Via, the mother of two children in the Hanover school district, said she is concerned that under the new policies, her 10-year-old daughter could be forced to undress in a locker room in front of a  male.

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“Like most girls, she wants to be modest and wants to choose when a biological male can see her body. How is it appropriate for biological males and school administrators to take that choice from her?” Via said.

“This policy concerns me because it usurps and undermines my authority — my parental authority — over my children,” she said.

The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation in 2020 directing the Department of Education to create policies on transgender students. Named as defendants in the suit are the department and Education Secretary Atif Qarni.

A department spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that the department’s review process was rushed and failed to address legal objections raised by parents and the Family Foundation, including claims that the policies violate the equal protection rights of non-transgender students and parents’ rights to direct the upbringing and education of their children.

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The lawsuit also argues the policies violate religious freedom because they do not include any exceptions or accommodations for faculty and students who “maintain orthodox religious precepts about the distinct and complementary nature of male and female.”

Vee Lamneck, executive director of Equality Virginia, defended the guidelines.

“We know that Virginia LGBTQ students, specifically transgender youth, face significantly higher rates of discrimination and harassment not only from their peers, but school staff as well. The Virginia Department of Education’s guidance is an important step in the right direction of making schools more inclusive so every child feels safe, welcomed and valued,” Lamneck said in a statement.

Under the legislation, local school boards have been directed to adopt policies that are consistent with or more comprehensive than the policies developed by the state by the start of the 2021-22 school year.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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