On Tuesday, Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe defended his decision to veto a 2016 bill giving parents a warning about sexually explicit material, saying in a debate he doesn't believe parents "should be telling schools" what to teach.
McAuliffe, a Democrat, served as Virginia's governor from 2014 to 2018 and is running for another term against Republican Glenn Youngkin. The current governor, Democrat Ralph Northam, is prohibited from running for another term under the state Constitution, which doesn't allow governors to serve consecutive terms.
During Tuesday's gubernatorial debate, Youngkin referenced a recent controversy in Fairfax County over sexually explicit material in schools and noted that McAuliffe "vetoed the bill that would have informed parents" about such material.
"What we've seen over the course of the last 20 months is our school systems refusing to engage with parents," Youngkin said before addressing McAuliffe. "... You believe school systems should tell children what to do. I believe parents should be in charge of their kids' education."
In 2016 McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would have required schools to notify parents if their child would be assigned a book with sexually explicit material.
McAuliffe defended the action.
"I'm not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decision," McAuliffe said Tuesday. "… I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach kids."
Terry McAuliffe: "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." pic.twitter.com/7S15pTv1gY— Greg Price (@greg_price11) September 28, 2021
The exchange about education began with a moderator asking McAuliffe about a current Virginia Department of Education transgender policy. Under the policy, schools must allow students to use the restroom and locker room that matches their gender identity. For example, a biological male who identifies as female can use the girls' restroom. The policy also requires employees to address students by their chosen pronoun.
"I like locals having input obviously on such an important issue. But the state will always issue guidance as we do from the Department of Education," McAuliffe said. "But I've said this before, these children are going forward through very stressful situations. Why people continually want to demonize children – I just don't understand. I want every child in Virginia to get a quality education."
Youngkin criticized McAuliffe's position.
"With regard to our kids in schools, we are called to love everyone – to love everyone," Youngkin said before asserting that schools should "include concepts of safety and privacy and respect in the discussion, and we must demand that they include parents in this dialogue."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Win McNamee/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.