Opinion | Virginia’s new school guidance protects parental rights

Mary Vought is the founder of Vought Strategies and a visiting fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) administration’s recent release of guidance for Virginia public school districts represents a victory for parents. Some on the left have already attacked the leadership as hateful and transphobic. But as a parent whose two daughters attend schools in Virginia, I welcome Youngkin’s actions as a welcome touch of common sense.

Those who would criticize Virginia’s new policies should read the document first. As its first guiding principle, it lists a statement that all Virginians should endorse: “Parents have the right to make decisions about their children.” Too often in recent years progressives have overridden those parental rights and encouraged students to change gender without consulting or informing their legal guardians.

Youngkin’s opponent in last fall’s gubernatorial election, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, acknowledged this paternalistic attitude when he claimed in a debate about books in schools, “I don’t think parents should be telling their schools what to teach for.” on the left, children exist primarily as wards of the state—those who government officials can teach or indoctrinate as they choose—rather than the responsibility of the parents who brought them into the world and, in almost all cases, care for them more than they do everyone else, including bureaucrats.

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The Youngkin leadership is rightly subverting this awakened ideology and restoring parental rights to their proper place. Principles such as “schools should allow parents to make the best decisions about their children” and “schools should keep parents informed of the well-being of their children” make perfect sense to the vast majority of Virginians. Rather than allowing students to “switch” gender behind their parents’ backs, the guide places these household conversations where they belong: at home, within a family unit.

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The guidance not only restores parental rights; it also restores constitutional principles. The document states that “the First Amendment prohibits government actors from requiring individuals to adhere to or adopt certain ideological beliefs.” Ironically, the same progressives who invoked the Constitution to ban mandatory prayer in schools and allow students to opt out of reciting the Oath of Allegiance now want to force teachers, administrators and students to specify a student’s “preferred pronouns.” even if it would violate the sincere religious beliefs of those individuals.

The new guidelines reflect a reasonable balance that takes into account parents’ rights and constitutional obligations. Virginia school district employees may use a student’s preferred pronouns, provided they have a parent’s express consent to do so. In no event, however, can a district “compel staff or other students to address or refer to students in a manner that would violate their constitutionally protected rights.”

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Finally, Youngkin policy offers a victory for women and girls by directing that “for any athletic program or activity segregated by sex, the appropriate participation of students by sex shall be determined” as assigned at birth becomes. This provision ensures that individuals born male cannot compete in women’s sports due to the inherent physical advantages (size, strength, etc.) their sex confers at birth.

Virginia schools can and should provide a welcoming environment for all students, regardless of race, creed, or gender. Previous governments have acted in ways that have undermined the parental rights, constitutional protections and conscience of others. With the release of its new guidance, the Youngkin administration has put the right balance back where it belongs. I applaud his actions, and other Virginia parents should do the same.

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