LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) — A Virginia judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by faith-based conservative groups challenging guidelines on the treatment of transgender students in public schools, ruling that the group lacked standing.
Lynchburg Circuit Court Judge J. Frederick Watson, who dismissed the suit Tuesday, questioned whether suggested policies would actually affect the groups that filed the lawsuit, news outlets report.
At the General Assembly’s direction, the Department of Education created model policies that are inclusive of transgender and nonbinary students. All school districts must adopt policies consistent with or more comprehensive than the model policies. They include allowing students to use school bathrooms and locker rooms that conform to their gender identity and allowing students to use pronouns and a name that reflects their gender identity.
Christian Action Network, a faith-based organization, and two families whose children attend Lynchburg public schools filed a motion seeking to have the guidelines postponed. The lawsuit was merged with one filed by the Family Foundation, Founding Freedoms Law Center, and a family whose children attend public schools in Hanover County. The lawsuit argued that the model policies violate parental child-rearing rights and student rights to freely exercise their religion.
In his opinion, Watson wrote “because the model policies are directed only to school boards, they cannot affect or aggrieve anyone other than the school boards.”
While the dismissal limits future statewide challenges, the fight will continue at local school boards, which are currently debating how or if to implement policies before the school year starts.
“This is a win and we should celebrate it for the win that it is,” said Vee Lamneck, executive director of Equality Virginia, an advocacy group focused on LGBTQ rights. “The work continues. We are still continuing to have these conversations because of the spread of misinformation that is out there.”
The Founding Freedoms Law Center called the decision a “disappointing development” in a statement, but noted favorable outcomes including Watson calling the model policies guidance. The group said they’d fight “certain individual board policies” in coming weeks if they follow the state guidelines.