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After months of lobbying and debate, Virginia Beach School Board will vote on non-discrimination policy

School board member Jessica Owens proposed a non-discrimination resolution at the May 9 school board meeting. (Image: Laura Philion)
School board member Jessica Owens proposed a non-discrimination resolution at the May 9 school board meeting. (Image: Laura Philion)

A resolution meant to protect queer students from discrimination will go to a vote at the next Virginia Beach School Board meeting.

This comes after months of lobbying from students and a meeting earlier this month that drew more than 100 speakers.

The resolution, which affirms the district’s policy of non-discrimination, was originally introduced at a meeting earlier this month by School Board member Jessica Owens.

Over 100 people spoke on the initial version of the proposal — for and against. While many student speakers spoke in favor, those against passing the resolution — all adults — decried it as unnecessary and said it curtailed parents’ rights. Several claimed it was a preemptive strike against policies pushed by Republican governor Glenn Youngkin.

The proposed state policies  include mandating schools to inform parents when a student asks to be called by a different name, nickname or pronouns, and to enforce students using “bathrooms that correspond to his or her sex.” Those policies have not been approved by the state or considered by Virginia Beach after thousands of public comments flooded in last fall.

More than a dozen high schoolers showed up at the Virginia Beach School Board meeting Tuesday to support the resolution again.

“If there was no need for this resolution, we would not come in droves to attend these meetings for months on end,” said Natalie Gonzalez, a VBCPS student.

“If there was no need for this resolution, we wouldn't be speaking here today. We need this resolution to assure our peers that discrimination is not something that will ever be allowed in our schools.”

The version presented Tuesday added language excluding sports from the policy. That was a major point of concern and disagreement among the board members at the meeting earlier this month.

It also removed the phrase “gender expression” and expanded the protections to staff as well as students.

The Board agreed Tuesday to bring the resolution up for a full vote at its next meeting on June 6.

NOTE: Virginia Beach City Public Schools is a member of the Hampton Roads Educational Telecommunications Association, which holds the broadcast license for WHRO.

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