RUSTBURG — Campbell County Public Schools officials weighed in Monday on two current topics, saying the school division is not teaching critical race theory, and also saying the division doesn’t plan to change its current policies regarding transgender students.
At the Campbell County School Board regular monthly meeting Monday evening, a handful of parents and community members voiced their concerns about critical race theory — a term for an academic framework that examines how policies and the law perpetuate systemic racism, which has drawn backlash among conservatives in Virginia — and new state policies regarding the treatment of transgender students, neither of which have been adopted in the school division.
“Please know that Campbell County Schools treats all students with respect and does not tolerate discrimination,” board chairman David Phillips said Monday.
Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) 27-page model policy for the treatment of transgender students, which can be found on the VDOE’s website, outlines that pursuant to state law, school divisions should adopt policies consistent with the model policy no later than the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.
The policy took effect March 6 and came in response to a law the Virginia General Assembly passed in 2020 requiring the department to develop and publish rules regulating the treatment of transgender students.
The model policies specifically mandate that school divisions should allow the usage of the name and gender pronouns a student identifies with, as well as allowing students to use restrooms and locker rooms that corresponded with their gender identity, “without any substantiating evidence.”
“The Campbell County School system has not adopted the specific model policies drafted by the Virginia Department of Education for treatment of transgender students,” Phillips said.
Jessica Overstreet, nurse aide instructor at the Campbell County Technical Center and parent to three children in the school division, expressed her concerns as a parent at Monday’s meeting.
“I’m here to tell you that these transgender policies by VDOE, they’re not right,” Overstreet said. “They’re not fair to any student, and they’re not safe, and they’re not acceptable.”
Many of the nearly a dozen citizens who spoke to the board at the meeting expressed similar concerns that the model policies, if adopted, would put the safety of students in the county at risk.
“Rest assured that the safety of the kids is our highest priority,” board member Scott Miller said.
Phillips said Monday the division’s current nondiscrimination policies are in compliance with the law and the division works with students and families to meet their individual needs.
Campbell County Public School’s student nondiscrimination policy states, “Equal educational opportunities shall be available for all students, without regard to sex, race, color, national origin, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, ancestry or marital or parental status. Educational programs shall be designed to meet the varying needs of all students. No student, on the basis of sex or gender, shall be denied equal access to programs, activities, services or benefits or be limited in the exercise of any right, privilege, or advantage or be denied equal access to educational and extracurricular programs and activities.” The policy also outlines the processes for reporting alleged discrimination.
Some citizens also voiced their opposition to critical race theory coming to Campbell County Public Schools.
“The truth is, all politics are local, and we the people, the citizens and taxpayers of Campbell County, need you, our school board and school administration, to represent us and push back against unacceptable policies, for example, critical race theory or whatever clever name it’s hiding behind today,” said Doug Barringer, chairman of the Campbell County Republican Committee.
Phillips added, “Campbell County Schools does not teach, nor do we plan to adopt, any critical race curriculum,” earning applause from the crowd Monday evening.
Board member Barry Jones said the board “didn’t consider” adopting critical race theory into the division’s curriculum or the VDOE model policies for the treatment of transgender students.
“We’re not in the business of doing things secretively,” Jones said. “These meetings are open to the public every time we have one every month.”
“The truth is, all politics are local, and we the people, the citizens and taxpayers of Campbell County, need you, our school board and school administration, to represent us and push back against unacceptable policies ...”
— Doug Barringer, chairman of the
Campbell County Republican Committee