Why Has Loudoun School Board's Transgender Policy Sparked Fights and Tears?

A school board in northern Virginia has passed a new policy aimed at broadening the rights of transgender students following months of very tense public debate.

Loudoun County Public School (LCPS) board passed Policy 8040 by a vote of 7-2 on Wednesday. The school initially allowed members of the public into the debates, but changed its policy following a series of meetings where tensions ran high earlier this year.

In June, a fight broke out during a Loudoun County School Board meeting that included a discussion of Critical Race Theory and transgender students and at least one man was apprehended by the police.

The Ashburn-based school subsequently agreed to allow members of the public into the debates on condition they signed up for comment, before eventually switching to virtual comments only last week.

A few months ago, LCPS suspended PE teacher Tanner Cross after he stated he wouldn't "affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it's against my religion. It's lying to a child, it's abuse to a child, and it's sinning against our God."

Here's a breakdown of the new policy and why it has proved so controversial.

What Is Loudon County School Board's New Policy?

Policy 8040 will require teachers to use the students' preferred pronouns and allow "gender-expansive and transgender students" to take part in sports and other activities "in a manner consistent with the student's gender identity."

The policy also states transgender students are allowed to use school facilities that correspond to their "consistently asserted gender identity."

"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," Loudoun County Public Schools said in a statement.

"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."

What Has the Reaction to the New Policy Been?

The introduction of the new policy has split public opinion.

"I think that they have spent years fighting through these issues and fighting through the discrimination, the harassment, the bullying, and this is going to be an opportunity for them to rise up out of that and into a school year that is going to fully embrace them," Chris Candice Tuck, the president of Equality Loudoun, was quoted as saying by Fox News.

"It's going to allow them to learn at their fullest potential."

Middle school teacher Andrea Weiskopf told the school board children needed an ally and LGBTQ children even more so.

"If you call yourself an LGBTQ ally but you don't believe trans girls are girls, then you are not an ally to children," she said.

Board Member Against the Policy

Meanwhile, School Board Member Jeff Morse was vocally against the policy.

"Comparing that [the discrimination toward LGBTQ members] to today's classroom and today's workforce is like comparing technology of 1980 to today's technology," he told WDVM-TV.

"Our teachers, administrators, and counselors are well trained to identify issues and provide emotional support to students."

Speaking to Washington, D.C.-based FOX 5, he added: "The policy is not needed. The policy does not solve the issues that it's purported to solve. The policy has forced our focus out of education and I will not support it."

What Is the State of Play in the Rest of the U.S.?

The issue of LGBTQ rights is very delicate in America, even more so when it comes to athletes or student athletes.

In January, President Joe Biden signed an executive order on his first day of office banning discrimination based on gender identity in school sports and elsewhere.

However, two months later, Tennessee joined Idaho in banning trans women from competing on teams according to their gender identity.

Republican representatives in Florida and Utah have introduced bills seeking to ban transgender women from competing in women's sports and lawmakers in Arkansas and Missouri are considering similar bills and constitutional amendments.

Loudoun School Board
People hold up signs during a rally against "critical race theory" being taught in schools at the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg, Virginia, on June 12, 2021. The Loudoun School Board has come under scrutiny for passing a new policy aimed at broadening transgender students' rights. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images