Politics/ElectionsVirginia

McAuliffe, Youngkin tussle over “Beloved” in schools

By Maria-Paula
Terry McAuliffe (D) is once again dismissing parents’ concerns over prominent African American author Toni Morrison’s historical fiction novel with Virginia’s gubernatorial elections a few days away.
On his video advertisement on Monday, Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin attacked McAuliffe over his sentiments that parents should steer off what their children are taught in schools following the use of a ‘racist dog whistle’ and ‘right-wing culture war’ in high schools. The ad features a Fairfax County black mother, Laura Murphy, who began a legal battle against “Beloved” in 2013.This was after her son shared with her excerpts of the novel when he was a senior in high school which he alleged gave him nightmares.
The ad shared on Twitter by Youngkin, is captioned, “What’s it like to have Terry McAuliffe block you from having a say in your child’s education? This mom knows, she lived through it. Watch her powerful story, #Vagov.”
During a debate against Youngkin, McAuliffe said, while defending his decision to veto the bipartisan bill, “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decisions. I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
Juniors and seniors in advanced literature classes in Virginia high schools study the book “Beloved”. Published in 1987, it tells the story of a former slave family and features explicit scenes of sex, violence, bestiality, and infanticide.
Murphy says reading the excerpts prompted her to take her concerns to the Republican-led General Assembly which passed the “Beloved bill” in 2016. The bill’s intention was to give parents the right and opportunity to let their children opt out of sexually explicit classes and is in place in some schools awaiting the Assembly’s move to make it law.
“My heart sunk when my son showed me his reading material,” Murphy said in the ad. “It was some of the most explicit reading material you can imagine.”
Murphy criticized McAuliffe, the Virginia governor at the time, for rejecting the two bipartisan bills tabled in the house then.
“He doesn’t think parents should have a say. He said that. He shut us out,” lamented Murphy.
In a Twitter statement following the ad’s release, the former governor noted, “In the final week of this race, Glenn Youngkin has doubled down on the same divisive culture wars that have fuelled his campaign from the very beginning. A campaign looking to gather support from extreme elements of this party.”
“Youngkin’s closing message of book banning and silencing esteemed Black authors is a racist dog whistle from his top endorser and surrogate, Donald Trump,” noted McAuliffe, alleging that Youngkin intends to ban books from schools.
“First, Glenn Youngkin proposed a plan to SLASH education budgets in VA. Now, he’s closing his campaign with a pledge to BAN books from schools. His right-wing, Trump agenda is wrong for Virginia.”
“Glenn Youngkin is ending this campaign by dragging our kids into the middle of his ugly, right-wing culture war,” said McAuliffe. “I’ll invest in our schools to deliver a world-class education for every Virginia child. Glenn Youngkin will ban books and cut budgets.”
The debate over “Beloved” follows the last gubernatorial debate, where Youngkin pushed for more parental involvement. The former governor grudgingly accepted that parents should have a say in their children’s education.
Although the Republican candidate, who has gained immense support from parents against the inclusion of critical race theory in schools, has vowed to scrap it when elected to office, his Democrat rival says there’s nothing to ban.
“Let me be clear: Critical race theory is not taught and has never been taught in Virginia,” he lamented during a television interview over the campaign period,” said Youngkin.
“Honestly, I find this racist dog whistle so offensive and all he’s trying to do is divide parents and use children as political pawns,” the former governor reiterated.
Youngkin has also earned parents support in the aftermath of an alleged sexual assault case that was covered up by school board members in Loudoun County.
Whereas President Joseph R. Biden has expressed his support for the Democratic candidate, his government’s lack of information on an apparent sexual assault incident purportedly hidden by Loudoun County school board has worked against McAuliffe.
This played out when U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland proved his unfamiliarity with the case when he could not answer any questions regarding the assault during a congressional hearing last week.
“Are you aware of a confirmation by Loudoun County prosecutors that the boy who assaulted a girl at Broad Run High School is regarding who wore a skirt to a girl’s school bathroom on May 28 and sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl in another Loudoun school?”
“I’m sorry, this sounds like a state case and I’m not familiar with it,” Garland replied.
“Do you agree with Loudoun parents who said it is not okay to allow a child charged with rape to go back into a public school system?” Merrick was questioned.
Garland answered, “Again, I don’t know any of the facts of this case, but the way you put it certainly sounds like I would agree with them.”
The Texas representative continued to question Garland if he was aware that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill allowing schools not to report sexual assault cases in which his response was that he was not aware of any Va. legislation.
Virginia’s upcoming election, therefore, poses a question of whether Democratic voters will be loyal to McAuliffe or if Republican Youngkin will carry the day, even as Biden’s approval rating continues to drop in the commonwealth.

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