From the Virginia tie:

Equality Virginia and Partners File Amicus Note to Support Transgender and Non-Binary Students in Virginia Schools

RICHMOND, VA – Last night, Equality Virginia, the Commonwealth’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) equality, along with 35 partners and school board leaders across the Commonwealth, filed an amicus brief in support of transgender students in Virginia schools.

The brief asks the Virginia Supreme Court to uphold the King William County Circuit Court’s dismissal of Peter Vlaming’s lawsuit against the West Point School Board, which dismissed Mr. Vlaming’s claims that his dismissal for violation of anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies violated his rights under Virginia law.

The West Point School Board has a compelling interest in protecting its transgender students from harm associated with discriminatory treatment. It must also comply with Title IX, which prohibits discrimination against transgender children on the basis of their gender identity, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. To serve these interests and comply with the law, the West Point School Board must treat its transgender students equally, including ensuring that its staff address transgender students, like their cisgender peers, with names and pronouns that reflect their gender identity. The illusory charge relied on by Mr Vlaming cannot oppose this overriding interest.

An amicus curiae brief, or “friend of the court” brief, is filed by organizations or individuals who are not directly involved in a case to provide information about issues to help the courts make decisions.

The groups point to the negative and harmful experiences of transgender and non-binary students and their families in Virginia schools as reasons why anti-discrimination policies and practices, such as using a student’s correct pronouns, can mitigate these misdeeds.

“Transgender and non-binary students, compared to their cisgender peers, face physical abuse, bullying, and extreme emotional damage at higher rates, which impacts their well-being and education,” said Narissa S. Rahaman, executive director of Equality Virginia. . “West Point School Board’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies are intended to counter and prevent these harms. We know that transgender students thrive when supported by an inclusive school environment, which includes using their correct pronouns.

“The harm of differentiating transgender students from their peers and not asserting their identity is well established in court,” said S. Douglas Bunch, partner at civil rights law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll. “Unfortunately, this effect is amplified when the hostile actor is a teacher. School policies, such as using pronouns that reflect a transgender student’s identity, are there to mitigate these harms and enable all students to thrive in school.

According to GLSEN’s 2019 National School Climate Survey, Virginia schools were unsafe for most LGBTQ+ high school students. Additionally, many LGBTQ+ students in Virginia lacked access to important school resources, such as an LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum, and were not protected by supportive and inclusive school policies.

School supports such as supportive and inclusive school policies, school staff who support LGBTQ+ students, GSAs, and LGBTQ+ inclusive educational resources can have a positive effect on school climate for LGBTQ+ students. Results from GLSEN’s 2019 National School Climate Survey demonstrate that students attending schools with these resources and supports report more positive school experiences, including lower victimization and absenteeism and higher academic achievement.

This is the second such amicus brief that Equality Virginia and Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll have filed on behalf of transgender and non-binary student welfare in Virginia. On July 9, 2021, Equality Virginia and more than 50 school board partners and leaders across the Commonwealth filed a brief in support of Model Virginia Policies to make schools safer and more inclusive for transgender students.

Groups signing the amicus brief include:

Richmond Diversity
Equality Loudoun
Farmville Pride
FCPS Pride
GLSEN NOVA
RVA GLSEN
GLSEN Southwest Virginia
Hampton Roads Pride
He She Ze and We
Health unit
Pride of Hill City
PFLAG Blue Ridge
Virginia Planned Parenthood Advocates
Pride Liberation Project
Rappahannock Area Transgender Support (RRTS)
RVA Restoration Fellowship
Richmond Triangle Players
Rockbridge LGBTQIA+ Alliance
VA Side by Side, Inc.
Southeast Transgender Resource Center
Stonewall Sports Richmond
Virginia Transgender Assistance Program
UGRC/Black Pride RVA
Virginia Anti-Violence Project
Virginia Council on LGBTQ+
virginia pride
Honorable Barbara J. Kanninen (Arlington County)
Honorable David Priddy (Arlington County)
Honorable Lisa Larson-Torres (Chair, City of Charlottesville)
Honorable Karl V. Frisch (Fairfax County)
Honorable Laura Downs (President, Falls Church City)
Honorable David Ortiz (Falls Church City)
Honorable Lori Silverman (Falls Church City)
Honorable Elizabeth Warner (Stafford County)
Mr. Jason Kamras (City of Richmond)

Equality Virginia is a 501(c)(3) organization that works to build a fully inclusive Commonwealth by educating, empowering and mobilizing Virginians to ensure that all LGBTQ+ people are free to live, love, learn and to work.