Virginia’s Democratic candidate for governor Terry McAuliffe has come under fire after he said in a debate with his Republican opponent Glen Youngkin that he does not believe that parents “should be telling schools what they should teach”. The comment came after the Republican candidate attacked McAuliffe for vetoing a bill when he was governor that would notify parents of K-12 schools of books with sexually explicit materials that would be taught to their children.
Youngkin, who is neck-on-neck with McAuliffe in the polls, said that he believes that “parents should be in charge of kids’ education” and accused Virginia’s school system of “refusing to engage with parents” over their kids’ educational development. Youngkin also referenced that parents in Fairfax County had poured their outrage to their school boards after they found out that the library of the public school where their children went was displaying content that was cast as “pornographic” by concerned parents.
The bill that both McAuliffe and Youngkin were referring to was called the “Beloved Bill” and was vetoed back in 2016 due to McAuliffe’s arguments that the law was “unnecessary” as it was school boards who were in the best position to “ensure that our students are exposed” to the literary works that would “expand students’ horizons”. McAuliffe also defended the veto saying that the legislation would give parents the right to “veto books” and to “take them off the shelves”, something that Youngkin’s campaign has said is false.
Parents have expressed their outrage over Virginia’s schools
Stacy Langton, a mother of six children, went viral after a video of her protests against the local school board surfaced on the internet. On it, Langton said that two of the books that were available in the school’s library (“Gender Queen” and “Lawn boy”) contained pornography and pedophilia. Langton said that the books had “detailed illustrations of a man having sex with a boy”, showing and reading explicit extracts from both books during a citizen participation meeting at the school board last week.
The board members tried to interrupt Langton, arguing that there were children at the hearing, as Langton continued to talk, the board members cut off Langton’s microphone. Eventually, the school board members decided to pull out both books from the school’s library after the parent’s outrage, with School Board member Elaine Tholen saying that she was disturbed by the extracts of the book but that she wanted to learn more about the books before deciding over the issue.
The author of one of those books, Jonathan Evison, has defended his work saying that it does not include pedophilic scenes and that the book is a young adult novel that questions issues like capitalism, racial stereotypes, and wealth. Evison said to the Washington Post that “I feel like these people (those criticizing his book) are frightened because they’re losing the culture wars”.
Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin have clashed over schools ahead of the election
Education has become a controversial topic in the Virginia gubernatorial election, with Youngkin proposing a change in the way that K-12 accreditation is given to schools, expanding the availability of AP courses statewide, and investing $100 million in the creation of new charter schools across Virginia. Youngkin has also proposed a ban on the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the public school system in Virginia.
McAuliffe has proposed a $2 billion bill aimed at increasing the teacher’s pay, expand online school access, and expand preschool for kids of 3 and 4 years of age. When he was governor McAuliffe also vetoed bills that would expand charter schools across the state.
Although Virginia school boards have denied that CRT is being taught in schools, the issue has come front and center in the fight for Virginia’s governor’s mansion. Loudon County, which includes suburbs in the outskirts of Washington D.C., has been in the center of the debate, with parents organizing protests and accusing the county’s school boards of teaching concepts that divide students based on their race, the county’s school board superintendent has said that the board is not trying to “indoctrinate students and staff into a particular philosophy or theory”.
Virginia’s election is scheduled for November 2nd and while Democrats have managed to win all statewide elections since 2009, the current polls show that McAuliffe is facing a really tight election, with the latest polls showing McAuliffe only 3 points ahead of his Republican rival.
Daniel is a Political Science and Economics student from the University of South Florida. He worked as a congressional intern to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) from January to May 2020. He also is the head of international analysis at Politiks // Daniel es un estudiante de Cs Políticas y Economía en la Universidad del Sur de la Florida. Trabajo como pasante legislativo para el Representate Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) desde enero hasta mayo del 2020. Daniel también es el jefe de análisis internacional de Politiks.