A national battleground for the parental rights revolution
Virginia is front and center as voters elect a new governor today
“I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Terry McAuliffe, declared in a Sept. 28 debate against his Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin. This single statement may prove a decisive factor in today’s gubernatorial election.
McAuliffe confirmed what many parents have feared: People in charge are purposely dismissing their concerns about their children’s education.
But considering the sexually explicit, transgender-affirming, and racially divisive books provided to Virginia students through the state’s “Diverse Classroom Library Initiative,” it seems educators actually need quite a bit of help from parents in choosing material appropriate for minors.
Parents are not only concerned with what their children are learning, but also what they’re not. A 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress study found that the state has the lowest proficiency standards for fourth grade math and reading and eighth grade reading.
Without involved parents, students’ safety—not just academic excellence—is at stake. Media reports have revealed an attempt by Virginia’s Loudoun County superintendent to misrepresent a sexual assault allegation by a 9th grade student, who claims that she was raped by a male student—wearing a skirt—in the girls’ restroom. The accused boy was then transferred to another school, where he reportedly sexually assaulted yet another female student. Last week, a Virginia judge found that the boy had indeed committed the rape.
When the girl’s father, Scott Smith, angrily confronted the board about the lack of justice for his daughter at a school board meeting two months after the incident, he was arrested and dragged out of the meeting.
Smith’s confrontation was listed by the National School Boards Association as an example of “domestic terrorism” in their letter to the Biden Administration asking for help to combat the “violence” of concerned parents.
The Biden Administration responded to NSBA’s letter by promising to mobilize the FBI against these alleged threats. But when the head of the Department of Justice, Merrick Garland, was asked about the basis of their new law enforcement efforts in a Senate hearing last week, Garland was unwilling to say whether he had personally verified any examples of violent threats cited by the NSBA. In a subsequent development, the NSBA withdrew its letter calling upon the Justice Department to act.
Predictably, members of the press have joined in the pushback against parents. The Washington Post published a piece on Oct. 21 titled, “Parents claim they have the right to shape their kids’ school curriculum. They don’t.” Authors Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire argue that a parent’s involvement may prevent a school from achieving its aim to help children “think independently.” This is the same Jennifer Berkshire who wrote in The Nation that “‘parents’ rights’” have become nothing more than “an aggrieved rallying cry against… so-called divisive topics.”
Have they considered the dire consequences to the division between parents and their children? Without parents raising awareness about the pornographic material in schools, how many more children would have fallen prey to it? If thousands of parents hadn’t decided to homeschool their children in the last year when school doors’ remained closed, how many more students would be falling behind?
Ask Barack Obama, who recently campaigned for McAuliffe, and he’ll tell you these are nothing more than phony culture wars to stoke Republican outrage. But parents’ rights are anything but a fake fight for political power; they are a safeguard for children against the predatory power of the state.
No one—no teacher, administrator, school board member, or politician—has more of a vested interest in a young person’s mental health, physical safety, and holistic success than that child’s mother, father, or guardian. This fact is not just practical, but theological: the primary responsibility of stewardship of a child’s mind and heart was given by God to parents, not to any other individual or entity, and certainly not to any agent of the state. Indeed, the “first commandment with a promise” contains within it both God’s design for the family and the importance of honoring its hierarchy: “honor your father and mother … that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land” (Ephesians 6:2).
Any policy that usurps the God-given role of a parent and thus hinders a child’s ability to honor their mom and dad is evil, and it will always, without exception, lead to adverse outcomes, both individually for students and for the society they have already begun to shape.
All eyes are on Virginia today as it has become a national battleground for parental rights. We cannot predict election outcomes. Regardless of the results, concerned parents should take heart that, despite the many cultural and political powers standing against them, their dedication to the well-being of their own children is God-ordained, righteous, and well worth the cost. The future literally depends on it.
These daily articles have become part of my steady diet. —BarbaraSign up to receive the WORLD Opinions email newsletter each weekday for sound commentary from trusted voices.