‘Parents are very outraged’: Virginia Gov. Youngkin’s new 9-member BOE to meet this week


There may be some big changes in store for Virginia school districts.

As Virginia students return to school, Governor Glenn Youngkin is shaking up the state Board of Education.

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin recently appointed five new members to the Board of Education.

The new conservative-leaning board meets for the first time this week in Richmond.

“I’m very pleased with the folks we were able to appoint. It’s an extraordinary collection of talent,” Gov. Glenn Youngkin told 7News earlier this month.

One of the new board members is Suparna Dutta from Fairfax County.

“Some of my priorities are really restoring excellence in education,” Dutta told 7News on Sunday. “We need to raise the bar. We need to keep a high standard of education for all students, and if that means you let students who can progress at a faster rate, give them a more accelerated education. Or at the other end, for our students with disabilities, or severe cognitive disabilities, make sure that they’re getting a really high level of education. We’re preparing them for their future, post-secondary success [so] they have the tools they need to succeed in life.”

Dutta, like Youngkin, wants public schools to focus on teaching the basics.

“Reading, writing, grammar, math, science, social studies, etc.,” said Dutta. “There shouldn’t be any age-inappropriate sexual education. We need parental consent for anything that’s beyond what’s in the curriculum. And there should be transparency and accountability and really, parents should want to know where their tax dollars are going. The millions, and in some cases, billions of dollars, in some of the local school divisions, are they being spent on education? What’s going on? So these would be some of, I guess, every parent’s priorities. I’m just a regular mom. And so, I share some of these concerns and priorities like most other parents would.”

In several Virginia counties, book battles have played out in local school board meetings with some parents expressing outrage about sexual content in some books found in school libraries.

Dutta also plans to focus on social studies curriculum.

“I think that it would be great to be able to have a good, honest discussion and a full discussion about some of the changes that are coming up and the Social History and Social Sciences curriculum,” said Dutta. “The changes that are coming up in math or standards of learning curriculum, and I would really advise all parents to look up whether it be their school, local school board or the state board of education, the public documents, the upcoming meetings, look at their agenda, looking into the documents, dig into the documents, what are they talking about? Do you agree with some of the changes? You should write to the Board of Education, what your comments are. I do believe as far as you know, my father grew up in colonial India. We go on with our lives, we do what’s best with the tools we have and I call myself an obscure immigrant because you know, I just came here with just dreams and high hopes and America is truly exceptional country. And I think that what we should leave for the next generation is all the principles, the guiding foundations that led to the founding of this country, and I think the schools should focus on studying or having the kids learn from the primary sources. Even the Code of Virginia I think title 22 talks about that all the students should study the documents constitution, declaration of independence, Bill of Rights, Virginia statutes, so on and so forth, and read from the writings, the speeches, firsthand accounts, everything. Then you think students would learn to have pride in this country and students will not be untethered from this great country.”

Meanwhile, several school board members in Loudoun County and Fairfax County and some parents have defended the books as well as many in the LGBTQ plus community.

But Dutta says she wants to honor parents’ wishes regarding what their kids are exposed to in school; something she feels the Fairfax County School Board isn’t doing.

I think one of the school board members in Fairfax County said that they are a super, super progressive board in their own word,” said Dutta. “Some parents have told me that, in public comment [periods], talking to the school board has been like talking to a brick wall because it doesn’t matter what they say. They [parents] raised concern over a couple of books. And in response, the school board had said that they would suspend temporarily or take away the books but then they were brought back. So the parents are very outraged and they really want to know why their wishes are being thwarted and why they are not being respected.

“I am responsible for instilling in my child my family values, and I do not want anyone, anyone be it an educator or be it anybody encroaching on my sacred role as a parent,” added Dutta. “So, there are certain things I want my child to know from me, not from anyone else. I do not think it’s appropriate that children be exposed to harmful content, sexual content. And, as we’ve seen in the past couple of years, parents all over the country have discovered these books in their children’s libraries. Are parents consent being garnered for any of this? Are they getting parental consent? Most families would wish their values to be respected. Most parents realize that the Constitution of the United States grants them certain rights. The First Amendment, no compelled speech. And so, I think there should be a boundary between what sexual content schools are able to give. Let’s respect the innocence of the child, let that child grow up, be a child, and just get a basic great education.”

Virginia State Senate Democrat President Louise Lucas is alarmed with the direction the Governor and his new board is steering Virginia’s public school system.

“I’ll tell you what, we’ve had some conservative governors before. But Youngkin makes the others look like choir boys,” Lucas told 7News. “I am opposed to most the issues being proposed by this governor. And I’m going to be that brick wall that stands there that says no, no, no, no—not on this watch. I will be fighting him back trying to defeat every piece of legislation that he brings forward, that repeals any of the rights that we’ve managed to gain here in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

“Because in Virginia, I’m telling you, we are not Florida, and the kind of things that they managed to get away with in Florida, we’re just not going to let it happen here in Virginia,” Lucas told 7News. “And I’m telling you, I think people are going to rise up and they’re going to express how unhappy they are about all these issues, whether it has to do with reproductive rights, if it has to do with LBGT rights and of course, you know, voting rights have always been under attack. All of our rights are under attack. And I’m telling you, democracy is under attack. And I just think that people are going to rise up against all of this foolishness. A lot of teachers are opting not to be involved in education because of all of the fears they have about pressures coming down from this governor, and the conservatives over on the other side of the aisle. And a lot of teachers are just saying, you know, this just isn’t worth it. I’ll go get a job doing something else. And you got people who would otherwise be going into education or changing their majors, because they don’t want to be bothered with this kind of nonsense. Teachers want to teach, they care about students they care about children. But this governor has made it so difficult for teachers to teach, it is unfathomable.”

As kids return to the classroom, what they’re taught and how they’re taught, is expected to be debated in Richmond this week. 7News will stream the Virginia Board of Education meeting live here.

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