Groups of Arlington Public Schools students walked out today (Tuesday) to protest model policies the Commonwealth says local school boards should adopt regarding the treatment of transgender children.
Released last week, the draft policies from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), among other things, direct schools only to affirm a transgender student’s identity if parents request it. The document is perceived as a rebuttal to last year’s Democratic-led policies, which advised schools to affirm the child’s gender expression regardless of their family’s support.
In less than a week, a student-led LGBTQIA+ advocacy organization in Virginia mobilized kids across the state to protest the proposed revisions. The group said these changes would allow students and teachers to misgender transgender students while forcing those students to use restrooms corresponding to their sex assigned at birth.
In Arlington, walkouts were scheduled at Wakefield and Washington-Liberty high schools, the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, and Thomas Jefferson and Kenmore middle schools, according to the student group, Pride Liberation Project.
A few dozen W-L teens gathered this morning in nearby Quincy Park (1021 N. Quincy Street), and some — including a few transgender students — made speeches and spoke to the media. The walkout was not school-sponsored, per an email to W-L parents.
“It’s just so bad. I don’t understand why [Gov. Glenn Youngkin] wants to bully these kids, including myself, I don’t see what’s so scary about using the name Matteo, using he/him pronouns, and why that threatens him so much, but it’s really sad that it does,” W-L junior Matteo Hope, a transgender boy, told ARLnow.
Mars Cirtain, a W-L junior, said politicians and family members cannot override how transgender students choose to express themselves.
“For a parent to tell a child that they are not the person they identify as is the same as their parents telling them, ‘You are not the person I raised you to be,'” Cirtain said. “It’s not about what your parents think you are, and it’s not about what your family thinks you can be. It’s about who you are and you get to decide that for yourself, not Gov. Youngkin, or your parents.”
Under the draft, teachers could not be compelled to use a student’s preferred pronouns, and students would use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their sex assigned at birth. Schools would only accommodate students who identify as transgender at the written request of their parents. The document says these changes respect parents’ rights and beliefs and reverse Democrats’ attempts to “promot[e] a specific viewpoint aimed at achieving cultural and social transformation in schools.”
Waltz Fellone, W-L senior and a school organizer for Pride Liberation Project, told participants that Youngkin’s policies were “cruel and evil.”
“All of you have made a difference,” they said. “I know it may not feel like it because we are just a small school in Arlington. We might not even be affected by this, but it still means a lot.”
Generally, the W-L students in attendance expressed optimism that Arlington Public Schools would continue to affirm transgender students’ right to self-expression, with support from residents of Arlington, which runs deep blue. W-L junior Sophia Braier said she has “several” friends who would be affected by this decision if they lived in more conservative, rural areas.
“Beyond just protecting people here, we’re doing it to garner attention all over Virginia,” Braier said.
The walkout drew a large crowd at Wakefield this morning, according to Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49), who posted about it on social media.
— Alfonso Lopez (@Lopez4VA) September 27, 2022
APS and neighbor Fairfax County Public Schools are adhering to their current policies while they review the updates, ARLnow previously reported. FCPS students also held walkouts at a number of schools today.
Yesterday (Monday) marked the start of a 30-day public comment period in which people can respond to the policies and potentially change VDOE’s approach. APS says it is currently reviewing the draft policies and would not take action until it has reviewed the final document.
A Clarendon salon has decided to stop charging different rates for haircuts depending on your gender.
Casals Salon Collective at 3033 Wilson Blvd says women and men will, starting today, pay the same price for services requiring the same length of time. Before, as is common in the salon business, women were charged more than men.
In a segment that aired on NBC 4 last night, salon co-owner Therese Snow said the decision was partially inspired by awkward instances in which a stylist would have to decide how to charge a non-binary client.
A statement posted on the salon’s website says it “continues to provide a safe space for everyone free of judgement.”
Effective February 1st, we will switch to non-gendered services. We will no longer differentiate between a “woman’s cut” and a “mens cut.”
Hair length or technique does not determine gender, and we believe that hair color and cuts should be individually curated for every guest.
Casals Salon Collective supports our LGBTQIA community and continues to provide a safe space for everyone free of judgement.
A new change to the County Code under review at the upcoming County Board meeting on Saturday (Jul. 18) would add gender identity to the list of identities protected from discrimination.
The move follows the approval of a similar state-level change that prohibited discrimination in public employment, housing and credit to Virginians on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The classifications fall under the county’s human rights ordinance, which authorizes the Human Rights Commission to investigate and resolve complaints of ordinance violations through the Arlington County Office of Human Rights.
The change was advocated for by the Human Rights Commission at its July 7 meeting.
Sexual orientation was added to the county’s human rights ordinance in 2019 and the proposed change in Arlington would also update the County’s definition of sexual orientation to match the state’s.
According to the ordinance, gender identity is defined as:
The gender-related identity, appearance, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual (including but not limited to transgender status, gender fluidity and gender expression), without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth or as further defined by the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia or the United States.
The amended sexual orientation clause now defines it as:
A person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality or as defined by the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia or the United States.
The proposed changes to County Code were made possible by the recent state legislation; Virginia is a Dillon Rule state in which localities cannot make laws not specifically delegated by the Commonwealth.
“The Virginia General Assembly’s amendment of Virginia Code during its 2020 Session to include ‘gender identity’ and ‘sexual orientation’ as bases protected from discrimination made it possible for the County to expressly include these protections n its Human Rights Ordinance,” the county noted in its preview of Saturday’s County Board meeting.
APS Adds Non-Binary Gender Option — “This school year, Arlington Public Schools added a new question on its form for students to indicate a designated gender, including male, female and ‘X.'” [DCist]
ACPD Has New Electronic Sign — “You may see a new electronic signboard around @ArlingtonVA thanks to JAG grant funds provided through the @TheJusticeDept! These signboards help ACPD share important public safety messaging around school zones, events and campaigns… The signboards also display motorists speed so remember to slow down and obey posted speed limits.” [Twitter]
Leak Prompts Early Morning Road Closure — “A water leak has been repaired after causing early morning traffic problems Wednesday in Arlington. The leak was reported along S. Arlington Ridge Road between 23rd St S. and the Interstate 395 Service road.” [Fox 5]
Jail Holds Holiday Party for Inmates’ Kids — “The Arlington County Detention Facility was transformed Tuesday night into the fictional town, Whoville, in anticipation of a few special visitors. Some children were given the opportunity to visit their incarcerated parents.” [WUSA 9]
Amazon News Roundup — Amazon is planning to bring a “Treasure Truck retail vehicle” to the D.C. area. One way to accommodate new HQ2 workers would be to upzone nearby residential neighborhoods like Aurora Highlands to the population density of Capital Hill or San Francisco’s Mission District. Prompted by Amazon’s arrival, George Mason University plans to build a new 400,000 square foot facility on its Virginia Square campus in Arlington to house the Institute for Digital Innovation, “a research enterprise for fields like data analytics, cybersecurity and defense.”
Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen
Jim Gregory is the organizer bringing F3, a national organization whose name stands for “fitness, fellowship and faith,” to the county.
Gregory first experienced F3 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Then, when he moved to Arlington, he reached out to F3 about establishing a group in his new home.
“I had a great experience down there with these guys who were fun people to hang out with and it’s a free workout and I thought you know I want to start something here,” Gregory said.
F3, which was founded in 2011, has the stated goal of encouraging male community leadership. Gregory said part of the motivation for starting a male-only workout group is that it’s an opportunity for men to find friends.
He added that it can be difficult over time for men to create meaningful bonds after they leave college, get a job or get married.
“It also might help them become better husbands, better friends, better bosses, better crazy uncles,” Gregory said. “It helps them become better at it, because they develop confidence in a friendship group and a peer group that they can relate to that they may have lost.”
F3 has a female workout group affiliate called Females in Action (FiA), but Gregory said he doesn’t plan on being the one to organize an FiA in Arlington. Though he did say he hopes maybe the wives of F3 members will start one.
Though at least one resident contacted ARLnow.com to criticize F3’s exclusion of women, Gregory said he hasn’t personally received any criticism for bringing F3 to Arlington. He has about 25 men signed up for the first workout, which is set to take place at 7 a.m. on June 2 at Greenbrier Park, next to Yorktown High School.
Photo via Twitter/@F3_Arlington_VA
Updated at 12:45 p.m. — The Arlington County Human Rights Commission contacted Crabb and Johnson minutes ago about their appeal, informing them that reasonable grounds do exist to support allegations of discrimination based on gender. The written decision notes that the “no long dresses” policy is not specific and there are “at least twenty-seven images” on the daycare’s website of girls wearing dresses, including some of similar lengths to the boy’s dress. The commission notes that the boy is the only child who has been disciplined over the policy and that Crabb and Johnson received no warnings or reminders about their son’s dress length. The commission says evidence indicates the boy was expelled as retaliation for his parents speaking up about their child’s dress being removed. The Arlington County Human Rights Commission’s Executive Director has been authorized to initiate “conciliation efforts” between the parties.
Earlier: An Arlington couple is accusing a local daycare of discrimination, saying their young son was kicked out for wearing a dress.
Kristen Johnson and Robin Crabb say their son had been wearing a dress to his daycare, the Arlington Children’s Center near Rosslyn, for several weeks when trouble suddenly broke out in November 2015. Arlington Children’s Center has not responded to ARLnow’s multiple requests for comment, but Johnson and Crabb shared their recollection of the events.
Johnson says last year she went to pick up her then-three-year-old son from daycare when she noticed he was not wearing his dress — which was in the style of Elsa’s dress in the animated movie “Frozen” — over his pants and shirt, as he had been when he was dropped off that morning. When her son said the dress had been taken off of him, Johnson questioned daycare employees about why that had happened.
At first she thought perhaps her son had gotten the dress dirty and staff therefore had to remove it. But staff told Johnson that the daycare center’s owner saw the boy wearing the dress and instructed staff to take it off.
“A teacher said [the owner] was irate when she saw my son wearing a dress,” Johnson says. “My son was essentially kicked out because he was wearing dress.”
She points out that although the boy had been wearing a shirt and pants under the dress because it was cold outside, the dress reportedly was taken off of him in front of the other children at the daycare.
“I said no one should take my son’s clothes off until they talk to my husband or myself first,” Johnson says.
An employee reportedly returned the dress to Johnson in a plastic bag but did not provide any additional information. Johnson requested to speak with the owner and staff said the owner would call her. Johnson says although she became angry at the lack of answers to her repeated questions about why the dress had been removed, she realized she wasn’t making progress and left the daycare without becoming disruptive.
Johnson says once she got home she called the daycare and spoke with the director. She recalls that the director also did not answer questions about the dress removal and told Johnson she would have to speak with the daycare’s owner. Johnson admits becoming frustrated at that point and hanging up on the director. “It was not my best moment, but I did it,” she says.
She received a call from the owner shortly thereafter. The conversation quickly became “animated,” according to Johnson and her husband, Crabb, who joined the call when Johnson grew agitated. The couple repeatedly asked the owner if she instructed staff to remove the dress just because it was on a boy. The owner repeatedly stated that the center had a policy against long dresses for safety reasons. But Crabb believes the owner’s animated response to the questions indicates otherwise.
“If somebody violates a policy against long dresses, you don’t have an emotional reaction like that. You just say they’re not allowed to,” he says.
After more discussion about the long dress policy, the owner reportedly told the couple not to bring their son to the daycare again or employees would call police. The owner told the couple that the boy was expelled because of Johnson’s interactions with staff after discovering the dress had been removed.
Johnson says the expulsion is unjustified on those grounds because she was not inappropriate or aggressive with anyone, other than hanging up on the one employee. She says parents and staff who witnessed her at the daycare center on the day of the dress removal have attested to her appropriate behavior during the incident.
Although the daycare does indeed have a “no long dresses” rule, Crabb and Johnson say, they had never been warned that their son was violating the policy prior to this incident. Additionally, they say that the vague rule does not even state exactly where on a child’s body dresses are allowed to reach or what constitutes a violation.
The boy received the dress as a hand-me-down gift from one of the girls at the daycare. She reportedly had worn the dress at the center on more than one occasion without any repercussions. In fact, the girl was wearing the dress in a photo featured on the daycare’s website (above left).
Crabb and Johnson point out that the dress was longer on the girl than it was on their son; it reached nearly to the girl’s ankles but only mid-calf on the boy (above right). They say other girls also wore dresses longer than their son’s without reprimand, as seen in another photo from the center’s website (below right).
Crabb and Johnson are certain their son was discriminated against for wearing non-gender conforming clothing and took their case to the Arlington County Human Rights Commission earlier this year. The commission investigated the case but did not rule in Crabb and Johnson’s favor.
A spokesperson for the Arlington County Office of Human Rights told ARLnow that all matters it investigates are confidential and it will not discuss them with anyone except the parties directly involved.
The commission’s ruling in the discrimination case was based on a number of factors, according to its final written report. One factor is that the parents did not inform the daycare that their son might have a “gender identity issue.” The commission also decided the dress in question was not related to his gender identity because it is a “costume dress,” and it cited insufficient evidence that the boy wore dresses outside of daycare.
The language is intended to prevent discrimination and harassment against transgender individuals.
The School Board also voted to ensure that all of its employment policies include protection against discrimination based on disabilities, marital status, sexual orientation, economic status and national origin.
“I’m very proud that we have these policies, and we are going to implement it,” said Emma Violand-Sánchez, who was elected as the School’s Board 2015-2016 chair during the meeting. “And that we are going to implement it with students, with the staff, within the hiring process, and I think we have to eliminate bullying, harassment and more than anything enhance the candidates in our school system for employment.”
Including gender identity and expression is in line with the Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX, a law that requires schools to provide an equal opportunity learning environment for both genders. Title IX includes gender identity and expression, according to Ellen Kennedy, the director of Employee Relations at Arlington Public Schools.
Complying with the federal government was one reason the board members adopted the new changes. But members also said it was the right thing to do.
“We do not want to put our community, legally, down the road,” outgoing chair James Lander said. “And so, again, in alliance with our County Board colleagues, the state and the federal government, we again are showing progressive leadership.”
The School Board did receive emails about the changes, Lander said. However, many questioned the procedure and not the policy. Residents were worried that the board would make the decision behind closed doors.
There were no public speakers at the meeting, which was a surprise, member Abby Raphael said. However, throughout the process, there had been little dissent from the community or APS employees, Barbara Kanninen noted.
“It was very clear from the beginning we were going to do this,” she said. “I don’t think it was ever an issue of any disagreement in terms of wanting to do this.”
The School Board also updated its bullying and harassment policy today to include protections based on creed and age. The bullying policy, which had last been updated in 2008, already included protections based on gender identity or expression.
Update at 12:40 p.m. — Democratic County Board candidate Christian Dorsey has issued a statement commending the School Board’s action and calling on Arlington County to make similar policy changes. “I urge the County Board to pursue ways to update the County Code to ensure that people are not discriminated against in Arlington based on their gender identity,” he said.
(Updated at 12:05 p.m.) The Arlington School Board will consider a proposal to add gender identity and expression to its nondiscrimination policy for teachers and other employees, ARLnow.com has learned.
The proposal is on the School Board’s consent agenda for its meeting tomorrow morning. The policy would prevent Arlington Public Schools from discriminating against transgender individuals in its hiring process.
“The School Board seeks to employ highly qualified, well trained and committed teachers, administrators and support personnel to fill vacancies, without regard to race, national origin, creed, color, religion, gender, age, economic status, sexual orientation, marital status, genetic information, gender identity or expression, and/or disability,” the proposed policy states.
The policy adds “genetic information” and “gender identity or expression,” while removing “political affiliation or affiliation with an employee organization” from APS’ nondiscrimination hiring goals. Another sentence dealing with politics remains at the end of the policy: “The private, religious and political life of an employee is not a concern of the School Board unless it prevents the employee from performing properly his or her assigned responsibilities during the workday.”
Political affiliation and employee organization affiliation are not currently included in two other policies: APS’ human relations and equal employment opportunity policies. The proposed revisions, meanwhile, add genetic information and gender identity or expression to those policies. The goal is to “align the protected class categories with other School Board polices,” according to a memo from APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy.
Fairfax County made headlines when its school board proposed and then voted to add gender identity to its nondiscrimination policy last month. Some parents said they were concerned that the policy could lead to mixed-sex bathrooms.