Suffolk School Board votes on model policy

Published 10:08 pm Thursday, November 9, 2023

Editors Note: Board Vice Chair Heather Howell voted virtually. Her vote does not show in the image

The Suffolk School Board made their vote for the proposed transgender model policy.

In a vote of 4 to 3, board members voted to approve ordinance 23/24-14 during their school board meeting held on Thursday, Nov. 9, at City Hall Chambers. Board Members Kimberly Slingluff, Dawn Marie Brittingham and Board Vice Chair Heather Howell voted in opposition to the ordinance. Howell attended the meeting virtually.

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The ordinance adopting updates to the school’s transgender policy has brought much heated discussion among Suffolk residents. Last updated on Aug. 12, 2021, updates the current transgender policy would now include: “Each school in Suffolk Public Schools will make reasonably available, with available resources, guidance and counseling services to all students as provided in 8-VAC20-620-10. Students may participate in counseling services that may benefit the student’s overall well-being. Students will be required to provide signed parental consent before counseling services are offered, unless Suffolk Public Schools is of the opinion that to require parental consent would pose a danger to the student’s health and mental wellness. To the extent possible, parents will be given the opportunity to object before counseling services pertaining to gender are given.”

Other updates would focus on definitions, nondiscrimination compliance, counseling service availability, name and pronoun usage and more.

Slingluff expressed her opposition to the vote while noting the feedback from parents attending two town halls she held with both Howell and Brittingham.

“I can say without a doubt that not one parent has told me that they would like for children of the opposite sex to share the bathroom with their children. I can also say without a doubt that not one parent has told me that they would like the school to have the subjective option of determining when they are to be informed regarding anything concerning their children,” Slingluff said. “Based upon this policy which states that students can use bathrooms according to their gender identity as well as the fact that over five places in this policy there are exceptions to the discretion at the school system to determine whether a child might be put at risk if parents were informed, I can’t support this policy, and I recommend to my fellow board members that you also consider the ramifications of adopting this policy.”

Brooks-Buck says that she has also talked with constituents of her borough.

“The truth is that students have told us how they feel. You listen to your borough, I listen to mine. People from my borough have come and they have spoken about how they feel. Students from my borough have spoken about how they feel. I listen to mine as well and I have not received calls to say what you have said. I also listen to the fact that we have rules in place. Nobody is forced – and that story will not get out whether you tape it or not – nobody is forced to use a shower with anyone. Any student – and this policy has been in place since 2021 – any student who objects to being in a bathroom, in a shower, in a locker room, anywhere, has the right to just go to someone and say ‘I don’t want to use that bathroom, with whomever.’ That story won’t get out because it’s not the truth.”