WASHINGTON (TND) — In an apparent rebuke of ongoing parental concerns in Loudoun County, Va., Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe said Tuesday he does not think parents should tell schools what to teach their children.
McAuliffe, who is seeking a second term as governor, and Republican Glenn Youngkin, who is a former businessman and a political newcomer, faced off in their final debate before the November election. The two candidates gave each other no mercy when they sparred about the power parents should have over their child’s education.
I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach," said McAuliffe, who served as Virginia’s governor between 2014 and 2018.
Youngkin argued that concepts of safety, privacy and respect, as well as including parents in the dialogue about their children’s education, must be demanded by Virginians. “You believe school systems should tell children what to do,” Youngkin said of McAuliffe. “I believe parents should be in charge of their kid’s education.”
The two candidates were asked if they thought transgender rights for students should be enforced statewide or be decided at the local level. These rights include allowing students to use whichever bathroom or locker room corresponds with their gender identity and requiring school employees to address students by their chosen pronouns.
Neither candidate conceded that they would give the state the power to dictate student rights, but McAuliffe said that “the state will always issue guidance as we do from the Department of Education.”
Earlier this year, Virginia’s Department of Education (VDOE) was mandated by Virginia law to publish rules regulating the treatment of transgender students. As a result, VDOE developed a 26-page policy document titled “Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students.” The document’s enforcement powers remain limited, however, but that could change.
Youngkin went even further than declaring that the decisions over student’s rights should be held in the hands of school districts.
We must demand that [school districts] include parents in this dialogue, he said. "What we’ve seen over the course of the last 20 months is our school systems refusing to engage with parents.
Youngkin highlighted an incident in Fairfax County, Va., that put parents in an uproar over graphic sexual material being made available in their children’s library, unbeknownst to them. “In fact, [McAuliffe] vetoed the bill that would have informed parents that [the books] were there.”
McAuliffe contested Youngkin’s allegation and noted that he isn’t “going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decision. So, yeah, I stopped the bill that I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach kids.”