Public school superintendents disagree on what Department of Education reports as “inherently divisive concepts” taught in schools

Fatima Fokina

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) – School superintendents from across the commonwealth are calling out the state’s Department of Education (VDOE).

VDOE reported in February Virginia schools are teaching what it claims to be “inherently divisive concepts,” defined in Governor Glenn Youngkin’s first Executive Order.

A letter sent by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) speaks for 133 sitting public school superintendents disagreeing with the report. According to the letter, the report aims to scrap parts of EdEquityVA, a diversity and cultural competency program for Virginia teacher.

Charlottesville’s superintendent Royal Gurley said parts of these kinds of programs are needed for all students to succeed, citing the department’s focus on “equitable opportunities,” rather than “equitable outcomes.”

“The letter talks about equitable outcomes versus equitable opportunities, which are clearly two different thing,” Gurley said. “Equity is ensuring that what Student A needs may be vastly different than what Student B needs.”

It boils down to Governor Youngkin’s executive order to get rid of what his administration deems as “inherently divisive,” including any teaching of Critical Race Theory.

“Critical Race Theory is not being taught in Charlottesville City Schools,” Gurley said. “We teach history. We teach the right history. We teach the history of our students here. We want to make sure that our history is reflective of every child here.”

The letter claims the department “assumes discriminatory and divisive concepts are being taught without evidence.” It also claims Youngkin’s tip-line for parents to report these kinds of teachings, not diversity teaching, is itself divisive, and should be terminated.

Virginia’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jillian Balow, shared this response with NBC29 when asked for comment.

“The letter fails to reflect the good faith efforts of which the Secretary and I joined the conversation. The specific requests listed in the letter are actions that the Secretary and I offered to the superintendents as a way to keep open productive channels of communication that could lead to partnership and ensure we are serving all students in Virginia.”

NBC29 reached out to eight different school divisions in Central Virginia to get their comment on the letter, since the letter was signed on behalf of all Virginia public schools superintendents. It also reached out to VASS for comment.

VDOE is set to release another report in less than two months.

Copyright 2022 WVIR. All rights reserved.

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