Virginia House passes legislation aimed at banning ‘divisive’ concepts in public schools

The Virginia State Capitol.
The Virginia State Capitol.(Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)
Published: Feb. 16, 2022 at 12:25 PM EST
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In a largely party-line vote, Virginia’s Republican-controlled House of Delegates passed legislation Tuesday that would ban educators from teaching concepts framed as “divisive” by many Republican leaders.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Dave LaRock, R-Loudoun, wasn’t officially endorsed by Gov. Glenn Youngin. But its language mirrors the text of other administration-backed legislation and closely resembles Youngkin’s first executive order banning so-called divisive concepts — including critical race theory — in Virginia schools.

LaRock’s bill is all but certain to meet a quick death in the Democrat-controlled Senate, where legislators already rejected a similar Youngkin-supported bill from Sen. Jen Kiggans, R-Virginia Beach. But the opposing votes between the two chambers speaks to the fierce debate still occurring over public education in Virginia, a core aspect of Youngkin’s campaign platform.

“I think this bill gets into legislating emotions and beliefs,” said Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, D-Henrico, a public school civics teacher who’s become a vocal critic of many of the administration’s initiatives. “And to paraphrase Chief Justice John Roberts, I think that is a sordid business.”

The legislation would ban any public school employee from teaching concepts largely related to race, including that “one race or sex is inherently superior” to another. Like the Senate bill and Youngkin’s executive order, it takes aim at equity initiatives adopted by some Virginia school districts, some of which have focused on the concept of privilege among students or racial affinity groups among teachers intended to provide “safe spaces” for educators to speak about their experiences.

LaRock’s bill would ban educators from teaching students that any individual is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, “whether consciously or unconsciously,” or that an individual bears responsibility for past actions committed by members of the same race or sex.


The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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