Editorial: Expect more attacks on public education in Virginia in 2023 – Lynchburg News and Advance

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Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, expects to be playing defense during the upcoming General Assembly session, at least when it comes to the ongoing push by Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Republicans in the state legislature to carry out a culture war crusade in state education.
Richmond Times-Dispatch Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax
“Democrats are going to be a little bit on our heels again, trying to protect the progress that we’ve made,” Simon said, “against efforts to redefine obscenity, to limit access to educational materials and to elevate the desires of some parents under the guise of ‘parental rights’ over what’s really best for students and parents all over the commonwealth.”
The progress he referred to has to do with educational materials and directives compiled during Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s term, especially during the final two years, when Democrats also controlled both houses of the General Assembly.
The notion of what “parental rights” means, exactly, drives this conflict.
“It’s very simple,” said Del. Tim Anderson, R-Virginia Beach.
Parents, he said, “want to go to school boards, they want to be able to say, ‘We are concerned about this curriculum, we are concerned about math standards, we are concerned about excellence in education,’” he said.
Central to this concern is a belief that educators are hellbent on shutting parents out of the process, a notion that Northam’s would-be successor, Terry McAuliffe, blundered right into with his September 2021 debate gaffe, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
Anderson’s relatively benign-sounding explanation earns a glance askance when one considers his national newsmaking and ultimately failed lawsuit to restrict access to books containing sexually explicit material by having them declared obscene. His suit aimed for restrictions of two books, “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe and “A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sarah J. Maas, to be applied not just to school libraries but to commercial bookstore chains.
“That is a radical idea that is not just about parental rights, that is about erasure of certain communities,” said American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia Executive Director Mary Bauer.
Simon effectively explained the troubling aspect of the “parental rights” campaign — in practice it involves imposing a conservative Christian viewpoint on all families in the school system. “They’re restricting what my kids can see. Right? And so wait a second, I want these books to be available to my kids. What about my rights as a parent?”
Simon asserted that fanning the flames of conservative outrage over “parental rights,” stirring anger over the supposed removal of rights that haven’t actually been taken away, serves a bigger long-term goal.
“It’s accentuating our divisions and our differences in an effort to say that a public school is just untenable, we can’t do it,” he said. “It’s a part of this larger effort, I can’t emphasize this enough, to just undermine the whole concept of public school.”
-Adapted from the Roanoke Times
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Richmond Times-Dispatch Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax
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