The shift in political landscape in Virginia from former Democratic Governor Ralph Northam to current Republican Governor Glen Youngkin influenced educational policies in the commonwealth. Waving the banner of parental rights, the Youngkin administration began targeting LGBTQIA2S+ students and educators through legislation and policies such as SB 656 and Model Policies on Ensuring Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools. To understand the influence on rural school districts, this study asked how rural secondary English Language Arts educators understand and respond to these anti-LGBTQIA2S+ policies as well as the ways in which those educators feel that those policies influence the climate of their classrooms. Using a qualitative questionnaire and semi-structured interviews, we sought input from secondary English Language Arts teachers in one entirely rural region of Virginia. This study produced four findings: differing understandings and implementation of policies, curricular control, effects on student-teacher relationships, and humanizing practices. We provide a call-to-action and recommendations for classroom educators.

Author Biography

A product of rural public schools, Josh Thompson is a queer Appalachian educator, scholar, and writer. He is currently a PhD student in the English Education program at Virginia Tech. His research and scholarship center on rural education, adolescent literacy, and the experiences, needs, hopes, and dreams of rural queer youth.

Clint Whitten is a doctoral candidate in Foundations of Education at Virginia Tech with a focus on the intersections of Queerness and rurality. He has taught middle school English, creative writing, and theatre and currently teaches a social educational foundations course at Virginia Tech. He also helps implement youth initiatives at the Center for Rural Education at Virginia Tech.

Karin Kaerwer is a doctoral candidate in Foundations of Education at Virginia Tech, a lecturer at Roanoke College, and a former elementary school teacher. Her research interests include recruiting and retaining teachers of color into PK-16 settings through pipeline programs, culturally relevant and responsive pedagogical practices, rural education, and education policy.