Terry Schilling is president of the American Principles Project. Mary Vought is executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund. They are Virginia residents.

Over the past year, perhaps no group has felt a greater impact from coronavirus lockdowns than our nation’s schoolchildren. In many ways, the widespread school shutdowns resembled a cruel social experiment with predictably disastrous results: plunging grades, rising mental health issues and, most distressingly, a surge in suicide attempts. But after the horror that was the 2020 to 2021 school year, a recent edict by the Virginia Department of Education promises to impose even more radical changes that could soon make the commonwealth’s public schools unrecognizable.

The deceptively titled “Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools” would put all “gender-based practices” in Virginia schools on the chopping block for the coming school year. For instance, schools would have to end gender-based homecoming prom courts and father-daughter dances. Districts would also assign overnight lodging for field trips based on students’ gender identity rather than on their biology. And, of course, students would have the right to use sex-segregated facilities such as bathrooms, locker rooms and showers based on their subjective gender identity.

Most disturbing, Virginia educrats appear to see no rational reason any parent or student would oppose these changes. The document defines the only recognized motivations for opposition as “societal prejudice” or “lack of awareness or understanding.” That people might hold to biologically grounded genders receives not even a passing thought.

Of course, many parents do hold to this view and are deeply concerned by the proposed changes. Hundreds have packed into school board meetings across the commonwealth, such as in Loudoun County on Tuesday night, to register their opposition. Nevertheless, the Loudoun County School Board voted to reject those reasonable concerns, and other school boards that have sided with parents face the prospect of lawsuits for failing to go along with the program.

At the core, we should all have the same goal for students. As the edict rightly puts it: “Schools should provide a safe educational environment for all students and treat all students with dignity and respect.” On this, every parent and educator can surely agree.

But the commonwealth’s guidelines effectively brand parents who have concerns with their daughters showering with biological boys as bigoted and prejudiced. “What about respect for our daughters?” those parents must wonder. These situations will almost certainly affect children’s emotional well-being and academic performance, but the commonwealth simply casts such concerns aside without acknowledgment.

These changes also put teachers in an especially difficult position. Consider the case of Tanner Cross, who was put on administrative leave by a Virginia school district for saying he would not affirm the gender identity of a student. Under the new regulations, any teacher who did not use a student’s preferred pronouns could receive a similar punishment for “verbal harassment.” Teachers could also face termination for disclosing a student’s gender identity to his or her parents without the student’s consent. Cross was reinstated after he sued the district.

The implications of this new policy reach far beyond the classroom as well, as the edict instructs school personnel to monitor whether parents adhere to the new gender ideology at home. With “misgendering” now considered harassment or abuse, one can easily envision that uncooperative parents could soon expect a visit from Child Protective Services if their child complains to a teacher. Indeed, in that event, parents could also likely expect a visit from an army of lawyers as well, given that the directive instructs school districts to consult their attorneys if parents or guardians are “not accepting of the student’s gender identity.”

It is an especially vicious irony that, after everything Virginia parents and children have gone through during the school closures of the past year, they must now deal with a new radical upheaval foisted upon them by activist bureaucrats. The department’s new edict lends even more urgency to the parent-led movements taking place in so many school districts in Virginia and across the country. Saving our children from this endless experimentation requires taking back the nation’s schools and school boards. Otherwise, a dystopian future awaits.