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Newport News School Board reverses course, adopts state transgender policy

On Thursday, the board approved the policy 4-3. This comes after they rejected the policy 5-1 just 10 days ago.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — After three hours of passionate speakers pleading with the Newport News School Board, they voted to adopt the state’s transgender rights policy.

This comes after they voted not to adopt the policy last week.

RELATED: Despite new law, Newport News School Board votes against transgender policy updates

The policy had emotions running high once again in Newport News.

"Trans rights are human rights," said one woman. 

"Us not protecting these kids at school is wrong," added another who is in favor of the policy.

On the other side of the argument, some said they worry for their children's safety.

"This is wrong, this is wrong," said one father, "Don’t allow chaos in our community."

Some wanted to know why the board was revisiting their initial vote.

"What in this policy changed since the last time it was voted on? What new revelation was brought out?"

RELATED: Newport News school board to reconsider transgender student policies

After three hours and 45 passionate speakers, the Newport News School Board voted to adopt the state-mandated transgender policy.

This decision comes just 10 days after the board voted against transgender policy updates 5-1, with one member abstaining.

Last week, Board Chairman Douglas Brown said they still needed clarification on how to implement the procedures in each school

At the time, board member Gary Hunter cast the only vote in favor of the change.

State law requires school leaders to pass policies to protect students who don’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth by the start of the school year.

Back in July, State Superintendent James Lane sent a memo to all divisions saying "school boards that elect not to adopt policies assume all legal responsibility for noncompliance."

This time, the school board voted 4-3 in favor of adopting it.

Dr. Terri Best abstained from voting last time because she didn't feel she had enough information.

However, she told the crowd Thursday, that was a mistake.

"One of my fellow board members described it as taking the easy way. When I first heard that, I was somewhat offended. But upon further self-reflection, that assessment was correct. By abstaining, I did not lend my voice to the matter at hand, which is exactly what I was elected to do."

This time, she voted in favor.

Brown, who has voted against the policy twice, said he resents those who have called him a bigot.

"Those calls are unfair. Just as you are asking for tolerance, I do feel that there was a lot of intolerance expressed towards me last week and I wish it wasn't so," he said.

He said he still feels the board should implement a more localized policy instead of the state-mandated one.

"Should the board reverse itself from such an overwhelming majority, I fear that it's going to show the word of the school board has little to no meaning," he said. "This is not the way you do business." 

In the end, the reversal of the vote is a move that left some parents upset.

"I take issue with you not standing by your convictions."

And others were relieved.

"This is about protecting vulnerable children so that they can get the best education possible. That is really a simple objective."