Virginia's department of education is sued over more inclusive policies on the International Day of Transgender Visibility Virginia's department of education is sued over more inclusive policies on the International Day of Transgender Visibility

COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings and events relax, VDOE is sued for transgender inclusive policies, and local teen uses Twitter to increase vaccine access.

Daily Number

156 – That’s the number of years it’s been, to the day, since General Ulysses S. Grant began the battle that culminated two days later in the Confederacy’s capital of Richmond, Virginia returning to the Union. This battle is one of the most significant signs of the Confederacy’s final days in 1865, historians say.


COVID-19 Restrictions Relax In Virginia

Today Virginia eased it’s COVID-19 restrictions once again.

Until things change, for better or worse, some of the Commonwealth’s restrictions on social gatherings, outdoor sporting events, and entertainment venues will be slightly eased.

For social gatherings, the restrictions limiting groups to 10 people or less indoors and 25 people or less outdoors will expire. Instead, Virginians can congregate in groups of 50 indoors and 100 outdoors.

For sporting events, the limit on indoor crowd sizes will increase from 25 people to 100 per field, or 30% capacity. For outdoor sporting events the new limit is 500 people, which is double what it was yesterday.

And for music venues, Governor Northam also amended restrictions put in place to enforce social distancing guidelines there. Before, they were limited to 30% capacity or 1,000 people, whichever was smaller. Now, music venues can operate at 30% capacity, even if it’s more than 1,000 people.

This loosening of restrictions is in response to an announcement by Northam last week. For a more in-depth look at the changes that are happening today, check out our previous story here.

Regardless of how lax Virginia’s restrictions may become, the CDC’s guidelines have not changed. They still recommend that everyone avoid large events and gatherings unless absolutely necessary.


Virginia Education Department Sued For Inclusive Transgender Policies

On International Transgender Day of Visibility, of all days, two conservative groups filed suits against Virginia’s Department of Education (VDEO) over its new, inclusive policies regarding transgender children.

The adoption of these policies by the VDOE is in response to House Bill 145 and Senate Bill 161, which passed to General Assembly last year. This legislation directed the department to develop “model policies concerning the treatment of transgender students.” In their report, these policies include requiring schools to allow students to “assert a name and gender pronouns that reflect their gender identity without any substantiating evidence.”

The legislation requires school boards to adopt these changes in policy by the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year.

The Christian Action Network, a religious advocacy group that is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, according to reporting by the Washington Post, was one of the groups to file a suit Wednesday.

A separate lawsuit has been filed against the VDEO by the Family Foundation. It alleges that the VDOE failed to respond to public comments from their organization regarding parental rights violations, freedom of speech violations, freedom to exercise religion violations, and violations of federal law. This non-profit lobbies against same-sex marriage, abortion rights, and transgender rights.


First Openly Transgender University Student Council President Elected

The University of Virginia (UVA) this week elected Abel Liu to be their Student Council president. Liu is making history as the first openly transgender person to be elected the president of a university nationwide. He’s also the first Chinese-American Student Council president in the university’s history.

Liu is a third-year Echols Scholar in Sociology and Economics, according to reporting by the BusinessWire. BusinessWire also reports that Liu won 81% of the student body vote.

Liu told NCB29 his administration will focus on addressing mental health and minority representation on campus.

“Mental health is definitely one of my top priorities. I would like to see UVA substantially increase the funding that goes to our Counseling and Psychological Services office without having students pay for it,” Liu said to NBC29. “My team is also especially focused on making sure that we’re increasing the representation of students that have historically been underrepresented within Student Council. Or student leadership at UVA in general.”


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Virginia Teen Uses Twitter to Increase Vaccine Access

If you’ve been struggling to find vaccine appointments in the DMV area, I have great news!

An eighth-grader in Alexandria named Sawyer Thompson has created a Twitter feed that alerts followers about available vaccine appointments.

“I knew if they had the technology to create all of these vaccine portals, you could use the same technology to make getting the vaccine a lot easier,” Thompson said to WUSA9.

The feed, which you can follow at @DMVVaccine, is an automated tracker. It combs through existing vaccine portals in DC, Virginia, and Maryland for vaccine appointments so you don’t have to. It’s updated in real time, so followers will be the first to know when vaccines become available

You can also visit Sawyer’s website, www.dmvvaccine.com. There, you’ll find a directory of DMV-area pharmacies and other vaccine distribution locations currently accepting appointments.