A required minimum 30-day period for the Youngkin administration to review public comment on new draft transgender model policies ended, but the Virginia Department of Education is taking more time to review the 71,298 comments, according to Director of Communications and Constituent Services Charles Pyle.
“The model policies and guidance document has not been finalized and will not be – as stated by Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow – until the department has reviewed all of the comments received during the public comment period,” Pyle told The Virginia Star.
The VDOE released the draft “Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools” in September, launching a 30-day public comment period that lasted until the end of October. As guidelines, the policies don’t need approval from the Board of Education, but regulatory requirements do require the administration to take an additional 30-day period to review the comments and respond to any that allege the proposed regulations violate the law before they can be implemented. That second 30-day period ended November 26.
When finalized, the policies will replace the 2021 “Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools.” Where the old policies focused on protecting students from bullying with an emphasis on privacy, including from family, the new policies emphasize parental rights. When the 2021 policies were implemented, conservative groups sued, alleging that procedures for responding to public comments weren’t followed properly. Virginia Education Association President Dr. James Fedderman has hinted that his organization could take similar steps if the new draft policies are finalized.
On Tuesday, Pyle said the VDOE is “exploring options” to review the comments.
“Even after the comments are reviewed, the department will take the time necessary to identify and make any edits identified and warranted by the review. So, with such a volume of comments, I can’t provide or project a timeline for finalization,” he said.
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