On February 15, 2024, the ACLU of Virginia and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP filed two separate lawsuits against the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) on behalf of two transgender students who have been harmed by the department’s 2023 Model Policies on Ensuring Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools.

In both cases, we argue that the 2023 Model Policies do not comply with the 2020 state law requiring VDOE to develop model policies ensuring inclusive and equitable treatment of transgender and nonbinary students in Virginia public schools.

In 2021 after consulting with psychologists, educators, LGBTQ+ advocates, parents, and students themselves, VDOE issued evidence-based guidance that reflected best practices for the inclusion and protection of transgender students.

But after Gov. Youngkin was sworn into office in 2022, VDOE proposed revising its model policies, reversing its guidance on matters like name and pronoun usage, facilities access, and participation in sex-segregated activities. Unlike the 2021 model policies, the department’s final 2023 policies do not recognize LGBTQ+ students as a protected class, and focus not on the rights of students, but of parents.  

“Jane Doe,” whose identity is being withheld out of concern for her safety, is a high school student within the York County Public School system whom at least one teacher refused to address by her correct first name. Because of VDOE’s 2023 model policies, Doe's school said it had to allow such mistreatment of transgender students. To escape being singled out and disrespected in the classroom, Doe was offered no remedy other than to rearrange her entire class schedule.  This case is briefed and being heard by York County Circuit Court on July 15, 2024. 

“Lily Loe,” whose identity is likewise being withheld out of concern for her safety, is a middle school student within the Hanover County Public School system who is not allowed to participate in a girls’ sports team. Even though she successfully qualified during tryouts, and her parents provided the documentation that documentation requested by the school board that should have established her eligibility, the board voted unanimously to exclude her from the team – then voted to change the entire school district’s athletics policy, citing VDOE’s 2023 model policies.  This case is briefed and being heard by York County Circuit Court on July 1, 2024.

These cases reflect the real-life impacts that VDOE’s misguided Model Policies are having on students across the Commonwealth. We are asking the courts to vacate the 2023 Model Policies and to rule that school districts do not have to adopt them. 


Wyatt Rolla, Geri Greenspan

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Date filed

February 12, 2024


York County Circuit Court; Hanover Circuit Court