Bill to ‘put the parent in the conversation’ on gender issues passes Virginia House

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Legislation that would require school officials to defer to parents when a student claims to be transgender passed the Republican-controlled Virginia House of Delegates this week, but it will now head to Democratic-controlled Senate committees.

House Bill 2432, known as “Sage’s Law,” would compel school officials to notify at least one of a student’s parents or guardians if that student informs them that he or she wants to be recognized as a gender that differs from his or her biological sex. The bill was named after a Virginia girl who was sex-trafficked after her school concealed her gender transition from her parents.

The legislation would also require parental consent prior to the school offering any gender-related counseling or taking any other measures to recognize the student as a different gender. The bill would also clarify that raising one’s child in accordance with his or her biological sex cannot be construed as child abuse under the law.

Under the proposed law, school counselors would not be allowed to coerce or encourage the student to withhold information related to his or her desire to transition to a gender that is inconsistent with his or her biological sex.

In the debate on the House floor, Del. David LaRock, R-Loudoun, said that a counselor would not be required to inform parents simply because the student is questioning his or her gender, nor would the counselor be required to inform parents simply because the student has expressed an interest in gender transition.

He said it would only apply if the student has clearly indicated that he or she wants to be recognized as a gender that is different from his or her biological sex.

“An unemancipated child does not have rights to make medical decisions,” LaRock said. “The decision, in this case, basically amounts to a treatment decision of a medical health condition, and certainly one that a child … does not have the authority to make. It’s also not in the best interest of a child to make a decision that could have life-altering consequences [that are] irreversible in many cases.”

LaRock emphasized that “parents, people that love the child, who care most about the child are in a position to participate in this decision.” He added that the bill is neutral on whether the child is making the correct decision, “but it does seek to put the parent in the conversation, instead of excluding them.”

Opposition from Democrats

The legislation passed the House in a narrow 50-48 bill with support from Republican leadership and opposition from Democratic leadership. During the floor debate, the General Assembly’s first openly transgender lawmaker, Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, said the legislation was dangerous to children whose parents would not accept their child identifying as transgender.

“We are dealing with dire consequences on a bill as reckless as this,” Roem said. “Forcibly outing kids, regardless of the safety of their home, regardless of what’s going to happen to them when they get home. You can say you think that every single parent is going to love that child and I wish to God that was true, but if that was true, Child Protective Services wouldn’t exist in the first place.”

LaRock pushed back on Roem’s opposition, stating that the legislation was written with the best interests of children in mind.

“These are decisions that should not be made by school counselors who are not trained in this field,” LaRock said, “because those early affirmations, forced affirmations, can clearly harm the child in the long run over time.”

Sage’s story of abuse and sex trafficking

The legislation, called “Sage’s Law,” is named after a girl from Appomattox, Virginia, whose public high school did not inform her parents when she decided to begin identifying as a male in 2021. Her grandmother, Michele, who had adopted Sage as a baby, testified in support of LaRock’s legislation.

“If I had known, this would be a much different story,” she Virginia House Education K-12 subcommittee on Monday, Jan. 30.

According to Michele, Sage ran away from home and was lured online into sex trafficking in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. She said Sage was “locked in a room, drugged, gang-raped and brutalized by countless men.”

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When Michele and her husband went to a Baltimore court to bring her home, she testified, an attorney with the public defender’s office accused them of “emotional and physical abuse” and “misgendering” her by not using male pronouns, and not calling her “Draco,” the name she had chosen.

A judge withheld custody for two months, and Sage was housed in the male quarters of a children’s home, where Michele said her daughter suffered more sexual abuse. Sage then ran away from the children’s home and was sex-trafficked in Texas. Michele and her husband were later cleared of all charges of abuse and regained custody.

“In courageously sharing her story, others will be saved,” she said. “Sage said she doesn’t know who she was back then. She wasn’t a boy; she just wanted to have friends. But her school, the judge, the attorney, and the doctor were all blinded by their ideology. The consequences for Sage were unspeakable. Please don’t let ideology harm another child. Let parents do our jobs. We know our children best and we love them a million times more.”

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