Augusta County School Board votes down nondiscrimination policy

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The Augusta County School Board, backed into a corner on nondiscrimination policies aimed at protecting transgender students, has come out swinging.

The board voted unanimously Thursday night to not accept the policy changes being required by the Virginia Department of Education, which under a state law passed by the General Assembly last year need to be in place for the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

Which means, what, exactly, for the coming school year, which is set to start next month?

We don’t know.

The board’s attorney said earlier this month that the school system could lose its liability insurance as well as state and federal funding if the state policies were to not be adopted.

So, there’s that, but then, there are elections in November, at the state level – for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney, the House of Delegates – and at the local level, most notably, the very school board that cast its lot last night.

The political optics seem to be the issue here. Augusta County gave 72.6 percent of its votes to Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, and from what we’re seeing in other localities in the Commonwealth that have been making similar decisions with respect to the transgender policy, the percentage of Trump 2020 vote is a correlating factor.

It’s hard to imagine anything happening at the state and federal level to impact the upcoming school year, certainly, though there is a special legislative session in Richmond coming up early next month where we could see something in the way of corrective action, both in terms of the state code and the state budget.

More likely is that the issue will resolve early next calendar year, after the elections, both in the form of legislation, more budget action and eventually litigation.

In the meantime, transgender students in Augusta County are left in limbo – a limbo of continued mental and physical stress and anxiety that apparently weighs less to county school board members than the hurt feelings of a self-pious minority.

Story by Chris Graham

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