Main menu


Virginia Department of Education Refuses to Publish Emails About Transgender Policy

The Virginia Department of Education has refused to release more than 300 pages of documents and emails related to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposed policies regarding transgender students.

VPM News requested drafts of new model guidelines and communications related to those drafts. VPM News also requested emails sent and received by the state’s public education supervisor, Gillian Barrow, between Aug. 1 and his Sept. 19 that included the word “transgender.”

The agency charged $125 for the search and claimed that 87 of the 90 relevant records were permanently barred under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act. That exemption allows the agency to release records at its discretion.

The denial is the latest instance in which the Jonkin administration has hidden records of its activities from public scrutiny.

“For governors and agencies to announce a broad program goes against the notion of open government, it is hype, it is applicable to every corner of the state, and then it is up to citizens and taxpayers to develop it. “It closes the door to gaining insight into and application,” said Megan Lyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, in an email.

The new guidelines would have to be approved individually for each of Virginia’s 133 school districts before implementation, but students’ parents would have to give permission for students to use pronouns different from those assigned at birth. there is. In addition, students can only use restrooms and participate in exercise programs and extracurricular activities that correspond to their biological sex. Critics question the legitimacy of the policy.

VDOE has partially released an email sent at 6:45 am on September 16, originating from Youngkin’s Policy Director Ali Ahmad. [state] House/Senate, [attorney general]When [lieutenant governor]”

However, VDOE refused to hand over the attachment itself, citing exemption from the working paper. An email provided to VPM News was forwarded by Balow to Charles Pyle, the division’s spokesperson, within VDOE.

Pyle did not respond to an email and phone call from VPM News for an interview on Thursday.

Emails sent from the Governor's Office to several state officials, including state education superintendents
The VDOE released the email with the issue attached, but blocked the release of the attachment, citing laws protecting the governor’s working documents.

The new guidelines were first reported by conservative media. The Jonkin government did not issue a press release announcing the proposal.

The guidelines sparked immediate controversy with critics who claimed they were illegal.Youngkin defended the policy as part of a movement for “parental rights.” The policy sparked student strikes in schools across the state last week, garnering about 57,000 comments as of Thursday afternoon.

Withheld emails and drafts have blocked one avenue for understanding how the new proposed policy came about.

Former news reporter Danica Rohm (D-Prince William) called Virginia’s current public records law “Swiss cheese” and said lawmakers from both parties resisted closing the loophole.

But Roem was the first state legislator to openly come out as transgender in the United States, and in the case of Youngkin’s model policy, the situation is particularly dire given the questions surrounding its legality. claimed.

“They don’t want the public to be involved in deciding whether what they’re doing is legal or not, because it’s not legal as they will eventually come out in court.” ‘” Rohm said in an interview.

Youngkin’s office has taken advantage of the working papers exemption to release “tips” about his education, private calendars, emails from controversial advisors, and other public records requests his office has received. Blocked the publication of answers to the list.