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Former Trump advisor’s legal group sues FCPS over LGBTQ-inclusive policies

A community member waves an LGBTQ pride flag at a 2022 rally protesting Virginia’s model policies on transgender students (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 12:25 a.m.) A right-wing legal group led by Stephen Miller, a former advisor to Donald Trump when he was president, is challenging Fairfax County Public Schools over its policies supporting transgender students.

America First Legal filed a complaint against the Fairfax County School Board on Monday (March 4) arguing that the school system is discriminating on the basis of sex and religion by letting students use the names, pronouns and bathrooms that match their gender identity.

The complaint was submitted to the Fairfax County Circuit Court on behalf of an unnamed female student. It identifies “Jane Doe” as a current high school senior who has attended FCPS since 2014, when she was in third grade.

Her opposition to the regulations that the school board originally adopted in October 2020 stems from her beliefs as a “practicing Roman Catholic” that “rejection of one’s biological sex is a rejection of the image of God within that person,” the filing says.

According to the lawsuit, the student supports her peers using the name and pronoun they’re “comfortable with” and “having access to the use of private restrooms” if they don’t want to use ones that correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth.

However, she objects to being “compelled” to address other students by their “chosen” names and pronouns, and she says sharing bathrooms with transgender girls “makes her feel unsafe and uncomfortable.”

“The Petitioner lives in daily fear that if she speaks in a manner that is consistent with her sincerely held philosophical and religious beliefs, she will be subject to discipline, chastisement, and/or social ostracization,” the complaint said.

Last updated on April 21, 2022, FCPS Regulation 2603.2 says all students should be treated in accordance with their gender identity “to ensure that all students, including gender-expansive and transgender students experience a safe, supportive, and inclusive school environment.”

FCPS leaders maintained their support for the policy last year after the Virginia Department of Education released “model policies” directing public schools to treat students based on their “biological sex.” The state’s proposed policies prompted student protests in Fairfax County and across Virginia when they were first released in 2022.

The VDOE policies are facing a discrimination lawsuit filed last month by two transgender students backed by the ACLU of Virginia. Though an American First Legal advisor says FCPS’s policies contradict Virginia Supreme Court rulings, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an appeals court decision in 2021 that found banning transgender students from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity is unconstitutional.

FCPS didn’t return a request for comment on America First Legal’s lawsuit by press time.

Providence District School Board Representative Karl Frisch, who chairs the board, stressed that FCPS “remains committed to fostering a safe, supportive, welcoming, and inclusive school environment for all students and staff, including our transgender and gender expansive students and staff.”

“It is clear that students learn most effectively when they feel safe and supported and respected and accepted for who they are,” he said in a statement to FFXnow. “All students have a right to privacy in FCPS facilities or while participating in FCPS sponsored events. Any student who has a need or desire for increased privacy, regardless of the underlying reason, is provided with reasonable accommodations, including single-user facilities.”

FCPS Pride, an LGBTQ advocacy group, said in a statement that it’s “confident” the school board and Superintendent Michelle Reid “will strongly and firmly oppose this specious suit and continue to support all students, including transgender and gender expansive students.”

“We encourage teachers, parents, educators, staff, caregivers, & community members in Fairfax County and City to reassure students that they are safe and supported,” FCPS Pride said. “…At a time when LGBTQIA+ students are being targeted, we must ensure that those students specifically know that their schools welcome them and that they will be safe.”

FCPS Pride suggested that affected students reach out to “a trusted adult” for support or helplines, such as the one run by the nonprofit Trevor Project (1-866-488-7386 or texting ‘START’ to 678-678).

The lawsuit comes amid ongoing, nationwide efforts by politicians to restrict access to health care and other rights for transgender, nonbinary and other gender non-conforming individuals, including laws that criminalize their parents.

Recently, the LGBTQ community was shaken by the death of Nex Benedict, a nonbinary high school student in Oklahoma who died on Feb. 8 a day after they were severely beaten by other students in their school’s bathroom. The U.S. Department of Education is now investigating the school district over whether it failed to address bullying that Nex reportedly experienced.

America First Legal launched in 2021 with the goal of becoming a “conservative version of the American Civil Liberties Union,” according to Politico. The organization’s work includes a successful challenge to a pandemic-era stimulus program that would’ve assisted minority farmers and a lawsuit over diversity programs in Hollywood.

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