The Stafford County School Board will vote Tuesday on proposed revisions to the division’s nondiscrimination policies that would protect transgender students and staff, among others.
The revisions include changes to the existing staff equal opportunity employment policy and a new equal educational opportunity statement that would cover students.
Both policies would extend the categories protected from discrimination to include pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions; marital status; mental or physical disability; genetic information; sexual orientation and gender identity.
The policies do not include specifics about how they would be implemented, but state, “The superintendent/designee shall be responsible for developing a plan that implements the intent of the board as set forth in this policy and ensuring that it is reviewed periodically. Such plan shall be shared with the board for input and review.”
According to the School Board’s agenda for the Tuesday meeting, the board will first vote on whether to approve the waiver of attorney-client privilege to permit the release to the public of legal opinions and advice provided to and prepared for the Board regarding the policies.
Board members asked for legal review of the policies at meetings in both June and July.
According to superintendent Scott Kizner, the proposed policies are identical to policies already passed by school divisions in Fairfax, Arlington and Loudoun counties.
Griffis-Widewater District representative Jaime Decatur, who along with Vice Chair Sarah Chase sponsored the proposed policies, said Kizner provided her and Chase with a legal review of the policies in May.
She said this information was intended to be shared with the whole board in May, during a scheduled work session on the policies, but this work session was cut to 10 minutes after a preceding closed session ran long.
A second scheduled work session on the policies was also canceled by board leadership.
Emails between Kizner and board members show that Kizner forwarded another legal opinion prepared by Richmond-based attorney Pakapon Phinyowattanachip on July 12, prior to the July 16 meeting when board members were scheduled to vote on the policies.
That vote was postponed on a motion by Holly Hazard, Hartwood District representative, who asked that it be delayed, “until such time as the legal opinion requested by the School Board members ... has been completed by an attorney selected by the School Board and that all members of the School Board, not a select few members, are provided with the opinion and/or advice of counsel.”
Following this meeting, the board retained Fredericksburg attorney Jennifer Parrish, who presented her legal opinion on the policies in a closed meeting with the board on Aug. 24.
According to the results of a survey conducted by the Stafford Education Association, 91 percent of division teachers and staff want to see the policies approved.
Currently, 13 school districts in Virginia have non-discrimination protections for students and employees that include sexual orientation and gender identity. These include Albermarle, Charlottesville, Manassas, Prince William, Richmond, Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
This accounts for more than 35 percent of Virginia’s public school students and employees, according to the advocacy group Equality Virginia.
The votes are scheduled to take place after public comments at Tuesday’s meeting, which begins at 7 p.m.
According to the school division’s website, overflow seating will be available in the Professional Development Center adjacent to the School Board Chambers.
The public can read the proposed policies on the division’s website.