School’s Out for Summer — Today is the last day of high school for Arlington Public Schools students. Tomorrow is the last day of middle school and Friday is the last day of elementary school. [Arlington Public Schools]
Meetings Planned for Route 1 Changes — “Two upcoming online forums will look at Virginia Department of Transportation proposals for U.S. Route 1 through the Crystal City corridor. On June 15 at 7 p.m., the Livability 22202 Route 1 Working Group and VDOT proposals will be presented and feedback sought… On June 21 at 6:30 p.m., VDOT will host a public-information meeting on the proposal.” [Sun Gazette, VDOT]
Yorktown Girls Win State Soccer Tourney — “A season that began with a loss ended with no other setbacks and a state championship for the Yorktown Patriots. The girls soccer team won the Virginia High School League Class 6 state tournament by nipping the Kellam Knights, 1-0, in the June 11 title game.” [Sun Gazette, Washington Post]
DJO Softball Wins State Title — “The [Bishop O’Connell] Knights capped a dominant campaign with their 26th Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association state title over the past 28 seasons. Katie Kutz tossed 235 strikeouts and went 17-0 while batting .482 at the plate en route to Washington Catholic Athletic Conference and VISAA player of the year nods.” [Washington Post]
Groundbreaking for Bus Maintenance Yard — “Arlington County will host a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday morning for its new Arlington Transit (ART) operations and maintenance facility. The public is invited to attend. The ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. at the site of the future facility at 2629 Shirlington Rd. in Arlington in the Green Valley neighborhood.” [Patch]
School Board Absences — “The board, whose schedule of meetings is approved at the start of each fiscal year, has had a tough time gathering all five members on the dais at one time in recent months. Goldstein frequently has been absent, and at the May 26 meeting Priddy was gone. (On May 26, Diaz-Torres was not attending in person but did participate remotely from Puerto Rico, Kanninen said at the start of that meeting.)” [Sun Gazette]
More Bad Driving on I-395 — From Dave Statter: “This is a new one. Driver just stops at the end of the gore partially blocking the left lane until they can figure out their next move.” [Twitter]
Gov. Proposes Three-Month Gas Tax Holiday — “In Arlington, Virginia, the cost of regular gas is around $5.29. As gas prices continue to climb, CG Green says he’s pumping the brakes on unnecessary trips. ‘Look at it, it’s crazy,’ said Green. ‘It’s $5.29 for gas. I have to rethink where I’m going.’ Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin says he is in favor of temporarily suspending the commonwealth’s gas tax.” [WUSA 9]
It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 86 and low of 68. Sunrise at 5:44 am and sunset at 8:37 pm. [Weather.gov]
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and Rep. Don Beyer joined the leaders of Boeing and Virginia Tech at the former’s Crystal City headquarters this morning to announce a new veterans initiative.
The announcement that drew the state’s top elected officials was the creation of the Boeing Center for Veteran Transition and Military Families at the new Virginia Tech Innovation Campus at Potomac Yard in Alexandria, just down the road.
It comes just over a month after Boeing announced that its existing Crystal City office campus would become the company’s global headquarters. While the move will only result in a relatively small shift of personnel from the existing headquarters in Chicago, it was highly touted by Youngkin, Warner and other elected officials.
“Boeing’s recent announcement to move its headquarters to Virginia and reaffirm its commitment to building the next generation of tech talent is a timely development for the Commonwealth, and is made more exciting by their extensive partnership with Virginia Tech,” Youngkin said in a statement.
“Their pledge to create the Boeing Center for Veteran Transition and Military Families ensures that the Commonwealth and its businesses continue to invest in diverse career pathways for veterans and students alike, all the while helping businesses thrive,” the governor continued.
The new Boeing Center, part of the company’s previously-announced $50 million investment into Virginia Tech’s new campus, is set to provide veterans with “economic and workforce programs,” mental health resources, and community service opportunities, according to a separate news release from Boeing.
“This is just a very important service that our military veterans need, a big assist to get into civilian life and to pursue civilian livelihoods, and to pursue tech degrees and all those things,” Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said during the announcement.
“Virginia has about 725,000 veterans that call Virginia their home, 155,000 active duty, reserve and National Guardsmen, and I’m biased, I want them to stay in Virginia,” Youngkin said during the announcement.
In addition to the veterans center, Boeing also plans to provide scholarships to Innovation Campus students, facilitate the recruitment of faculty and researchers, and fund STEM initiatives to underserved K-12 students.
“I hope it gets very big,” Calhoun said. “Just suffice to say, we’re going to take advantage of this location and try to attract as many young people as we possibly can to this trade and to our company.”
The press release from the governor’s office is below.
Virginians are going to have to wait until next year to see any further movement on cannabis regulation and legalization of retail sales.
A bill — SB 591 — that would have regulated cannabis products shapes, banned Delta-8, increased penalties for possessing more than the legal limit, and reclassified many CBD products as marijuana was effectively killed in the Virginia Senate yesterday (April 27) with a bipartisan vote.
While the achievement was celebrated by advocates, there remains much to be figured out. Notably, there’s still no legal retail market and regulation remains incomplete.
One bill that would have contributed to regulating marijuana products was SB 591. When it was first introduced back in January, it initially only dealt with the sale of cannabis products in shapes that could appeal to children — like candy, fruit, or animals. Despite it being introduced by a Republican, Ebbin and other local Democrats initially supported it.
“It was the right thing to do,” Ebbin tells ARLnow.
But a series of amendments from Governor Glenn Youngkin significantly altered the bill, adding in provisions about CBD products, Delta-8, and making possession over the legal limit a crime rather than a civil infraction.
“The governor’s amendments were ill-constructed, poorly thought out, and left lots of loopholes,” Ebbin says. “The original bill was better.”
The state Senator says the modified legislation “left a door open” for production of other synthetic marijuana products besides Delta-8, allowed for the removal of THC limits on packaging, and re-criminalized possession of over an ounce.
“The government’s proposed penalties for personal possession of two ounces of marijuana were more punitive than the laws that were in place prior to Virginia’s enactment of decriminalization in 2020,” Ebbin says.
SB 591 had a bit of a unique journey. The original bill, introduced by a Republican, was passed unanimously in the Senate and with very limited opposition in the House of Delegates. It was then sent to Governor Youngkin’s desk, who changed it by adding those amendments.
It was, then, sent back to the Senate yesterday for a vote where it was deadlocked with 20 yeas and 20 nays. However, Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears (R) broke the tie, essentially going against the Governor from her own party.
Whoa. Sears breaks tie with the Democrats to take marijuana bill by for the day (killing Governor's recommendations). There are no further meetings of the Rehab committee, and this prevents the Governor from being able to sign the bill in its original form either. pic.twitter.com/O5O6MSOtBV
— VAPLAN (@vaplan2018) April 27, 2022
With the bill being referred back to the committee, both the Governor’s amendments and the original bill are dead and any related legislation will have to wait until at least next year to be considered again for enactment.
“Well, it’s disappointing,” says Ebbin. “People need to be aware of what they are buying.”
This is the second time in just the last couple of months that a bill aimed at creating infrastructure for a legal cannabis retail market in Virginia was voted down.
Ebbin’s own SB 391 would have allowed existing medical dispensaries to start selling retail cannabis starting in September. While it passed the Democratic-controlled Senate, the Republican-controlled House of Delegates pushed the decision until next year.
For the moment, the Cannabis Oversight Commission — for which Ebbin is Chair — will continue to review the two bills with the hope that a consensus can be built with how best to move forward on marijuana legislation in Virginia next year.
While Ebbin remains hopeful that 2023 will bring cannabis retail sales and further market regulation, he’s a bit skeptical.
“I’ve learned not to be overly optimistic in this field,” he says. “This is a product that’s now legal for adults 21 and older. So, it’s in our best interest to make sure this is a tested, regulated product.”
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin vetoed 25 bills this week, of which nearly half were proposed or championed by Arlington lawmakers.
The new governor signed 700 bills sent to his desk during the 2022 General Assembly session, including some from Arlington lawmakers addressing mental health treatment, medical debt and virtual meetings.
Of those he vetoed, nine were proposed by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30), who represents part of the county, and four were filed by Arlington’s Del. Patrick Hope (D-47).
Some lawmakers and observers in state politics have interpreted the rebuffs of Ebbin’s bills as political tit-for-tat. Ebbin was at the center of some Youngkin appointments that were blocked earlier this year and Youngkin signed identical House bills in a half-dozen of those cases, the Washington Post reports.
In a statement, Ebbin said he is “stunned” by Youngkin’s decision to veto “meaningful, non-controversial” legislation.
“It is the polar opposite of what he campaigned on,” he said in an email to supporters and on Twitter. “These vetoes, from protecting living organ donors to enhancing consumers’ data privacy to reforming the [Virginia Employment Commission], are not in the best interest of Virginians.”
Gov. Youngkin vetoed 9/10 bills that reached his desk from Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria).
— Ben Paviour (@BPaves) April 12, 2022
As for Hope’s vetoed bills, one that caused a splash was HB 669, which would have initiated a study to see if the Virginia Department of Health should regulate swimming pools and water recreational facilities.
Advocates of the legislation say unregulated pools can pose health risks and the bipartisan-supported legislation would have added safeguards for swimmers and coaches.
A thread: Governor Glenn Youngkin vetoed HB 669 @HopeforVirginia's bill that would have directed the Commissioner of Health to create a group study to determine whether pools should be regulated by VDOH. As a swimmer, I have some serious concerns.
— Langston Carter (@LangstonACarter) April 12, 2022
This isn't government overreach. It's something the government should have been doing a long time ago. When a pool isn't properly maintained, it's dangerous to the public.
Thank you @HopeforVirginia for working to fix this.
— Langston Carter (@LangstonACarter) April 12, 2022
Youngkin said the goal is “commendable” but directed lawmakers to consolidate this proposed work with existing efforts, rather than create “duplicative work.”
Another that went up in smoke was HB 675, and its Senate equivalent, which would have eliminated health insurance premiums for tobacco users. He said these higher rates incentivize healthier habits and the legislation would require non-users to foot the bill for increased healthcare costs.
Hope rebutted that it would have expanded coverage and decreased premiums.
HB 675 would have DECREASED premiums by 4.5% and REDUCED the number of uninsured by 14,000. @GovernorVA vetoed the bill. Virginians can’t afford to pay higher health care costs. https://t.co/As81uIkTDX
— Patrick Hope (@HopeforVirginia) April 12, 2022
These vetoes come after Youngkin vetoed Hope’s bill earlier this year that would have allowed the Arlington County Board to hire an independent auditor for the Community Oversight Board, which reviews complaints of alleged police misconduct.
That duty remains with County Manager Mark Schwartz. Locally, it was viewed as a procedural bill giving the Board a similar level of authority enjoyed by other local governing bodies.
Another bill with Arlington ties, HB 802, would have allowed a local governing body to force landlords to address decaying conditions at their properties if they constituted a serious threat to life, health or safety of tenants.
Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (D-45), who represents parts of Arlington, was a chief co-patron. The text was developed with the Arlington branch of the NAACP in the wake of the discovery of mold, rodents and other health concerns at the Serrano Apartments on Columbia Pike, says NAACP Housing Chair Kellen MacBeth.
He said he was “deeply disappointed” by the veto, calling it “a troubling sign of what the next four years will be like for low-income tenant rights at the state level.”
Still, Youngkin approved or amended a number of bills from Arlington lawmakers tackling their legislative priorities.
Changes Coming to ‘Crossing Clarendon’ — “Our central greenspace, The Loop, will be expanding to offer more spaces to walk, shop, relax and explore The Crossing Clarendon. This renovation includes natural planting and landscaping, a modern play structure for the kids, upgrades to the water feature, increased pedestrian zones, and updated seating for our visitors. Construction is slated until late 2022.” [Instagram]
HQ2 Is Attracting Companies, Investors — “The National Landing area, which encompasses Crystal City, Pentagon City and part of Potomac Yard in Arlington, has an $8B development pipeline, $2.5B of which is from Amazon, National Landing BID President Tracy Sayegh Gabriel said… Neighborhood leaders, developers and brokers said that HQ2 is drawing new global investors and commercial tenants to seek opportunities in the area.” [Bisnow]
PSA: Close Your Garage Door — “2600 block of S. Joyce Street. At approximately 6:17 p.m. on March 24, police were dispatched to the late report of a breaking and entering. Upon arrival, it was determined that between approximately 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m., the two unknown suspects entered into the victim’s open garage and stole numerous power tools.” [ACPD]
Expect ‘Manageable’ Local Growth — “Northern Virginia localities should expect moderate levels of jobs growth in the coming two decades, with the metropolitan area as a whole adding perhaps 880,000 new ones by 2045. ‘We are a 1-percent-a-year, on average, growing region. This is not too fast, this is not amazingly high. This is actually a very manageable pace,’ said Arlington County Board member Takis Karantonis, parsing new data at the board’s March 22 meeting.” [Sun Gazette]
‘Women of Vision’ Winners — “On Wednesday, March 30, 2022, the Arlington County Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will honor four women for their commitment and leadership in the Arlington community with 2022 Arlington County Women of Vision awards… BUSINESS: Karen Bate and Evelyn Powers… NONPROFIT: Natalie Foote… GOVERNMENT: Tara Magee.” [Arlington County]
County Scaling Down Vax Site — “With the demand for COVID vaccines at least momentarily on the decline across Arlington, local leaders have announced plans to reopen one community center for other uses, and are working on opening up more spaces in another. County Manager Mark Schwartz on March 22 announced that, as of April 5, the Walter Reed Community Center will open for pickleball, volleyball, basketball and table games like bridge and mah jongg.” [Sun Gazette]
Governor Signs Car Tax Bill — “Governor Glenn Youngkin signed into law HB1239 sponsored by Delegate Phillip A. Scott, empowering localities to cut car tax rates and prevent huge tax hikes driven by driven by dramatic increases in used vehicle values… If local government leadership does not address the increased value of used vehicles, then taxpayers are facing significant tax increases, as the Commonwealth of Virginia constitutionally mandates 100% fair market value in property tax assessments.” [Governor of Virginia]
It’s Tuesday — Clear throughout the day. High of 46 and low of 24. Sunrise at 6:58 am and sunset at 7:30 pm. [Weather.gov]
Good news: Virginia is flush with cash.
State tax revenues have been unexpectedly robust — billions more than first anticipated — and that has Republicans and Democrats in Richmond at loggerheads over what to do with the money.
From the Virginia Mercury last month:
Virginia’s new governor marked his 30th day in office with a state tour meant to build support for his tax-cutting plans, which have gotten a mixed response in the politically split legislature.
Parts of it, such as a plan to give every Virginia taxpayer a one-time rebate of $300, have passed with strong bipartisan support. Other proposals, like eliminating the state’s grocery tax and suspending a scheduled increase in the gas tax, have been a tough sell in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The budget remains in flux, with the state legislature adjourned until a special session is called, allowing lawmakers to work out their differences. While Republicans are calling for nearly $5.5 billion in tax cuts and rebates — plus, more recently, a temporary gas tax holiday — Democrats want more modest tax cuts, targeted to those with lower incomes, while boosting funding for priorities like education.
From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
The House budget includes almost $5.5 billion in tax cuts and rebates, but the Senate continues to insist on deferring the centerpiece of the governor’s tax plan — the doubling of the standard deduction for income tax filers — until a joint subcommittee completes a comprehensive study of Virginia tax policy in the coming year. Doubling the standard deduction would reduce state revenues by $2 billion over two years.
The Senate has agreed to partial repeal of the 2.5% sales tax on groceries, but has balked at eliminating the 1% that goes directly to local governments and has approved a less generous tax exemption for military retirement income than the House. It also has approved smaller tax rebates this year than the House and rejected a 12-month rollback in the gas tax as meaningless to soaring prices at the pump.
In general, what do you think the state should do with its unexpected extra revenue, if you were to select one thing as Richmond’s top budget priority?
Board Calls Out Youngkin’s Auditor Veto — “The Arlington County Board said Wednesday that Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s veto of its police oversight bill was ‘deeply frustrating.'” [WTOP, Arlington County]
Sen. Kaine Has Long Covid — “Sen. Tim Kaine got covid-19 in the spring of 2020, and nearly two years later he still has mild symptoms.
‘I tell people it feels like all my nerves have had like five cups of coffee,’ Kaine said Wednesday of his ’24/7′ tingling sensation, just after introducing legislation intended to expand understanding of long covid.” [Washington Post]
Volunteers Clean Up Muddy Trail –From the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail: “Before and after of the Gravelly Point mud puddle which was removed by volunteers on Saturday while edging the trail. Make a difference on the trail when you register for one of our upcoming volunteer events.” [Twitter]
It’s Thursday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 53 and low of 35. Sunrise at 6:39 am and sunset at 6:05 pm. [Weather.gov]
(Updated at 1:55 p.m.) Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s first veto could mean Arlington’s police oversight board cannot be led by an independent policing auditor.
Today (Tuesday), the Republican governor vetoed his first bill: HB 670, put forward by Arlington’s Del. Patrick Hope (D). It would have granted the Arlington County Board permission to appoint an independent auditor who would oversee the Community Oversight Board (COB), which is tasked with handling civilian complaints of misconduct by Arlington police officers.
Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol told ARLnow this morning that the Board wants to work with Youngkin to clarify the powers of the county’s police oversight board and the role of the auditor in hopes that he will rescind the veto.
The Arlington County Democratic Committee decried the veto as “play[ing] politics with a commonsense measure that passed the GOP controlled House.”
Despite passing with bipartisan support Governor Youngkin vetoed a bill from @HopeforVirginia that would have allowed an independent police auditor in Arlington
There is no reason to play politics with a commonsense measure that passed the GOP controlled House https://t.co/9TSNf4Tlpr
— Arlington Democrats (@arlingtondems) March 1, 2022
The policing auditor would have been a County Board-appointed position and the person filling the role would have answered directly to the Board. Most other top managerial positions report to the Board-appointed County Manager.
Should Youngkin’s veto remain in place, Cristol says the COB would still be led by an auditor, but this leader would instead answer to County Manager Mark Schwartz. That would mean a weaker auditor, she adds.
“It was really important that the independent policing auditor be just that, and not be under the chief law enforcement official of the county, which is the County Manager,” Cristol said.
Cristol says the Board wants to work with Youngkin because it seems — by his press release — that he misunderstands what the COB can and cannot do. She said the governor may have vetoed the bill based on a faulty understanding of the new body’s powers.
“Based on his press release, I think he made this action without full knowledge of what he was vetoing,” she said. “Specifically, he says, in referencing his vetoing of the bill, the Community Oversight Board would ‘make binding disciplinary determinations, including termination and involuntary restitution.’ Our ordinance didn’t empower the COB or the independent auditor to do that.”
Hope’s bill was merely an “administrative fix” to a bill passed last year, she said.
“Assuming this does stand, we are incredibly disappointed,” she said. “It’s not an expansion of [the] Community Oversight Board in the Commonwealth. It puts Arlington into parity with other jurisdictions in the Commonwealth.”
Del. Hope explains that his bill corrects for a shortcoming in the county charter that requires the County Board to get permission from the General Assembly to make any hire. He says Youngkin’s response is a new one.
“In my 13 years of service, I don’t ever recall seeing a Governor vetoing a local Charter bill,” he said. “To say that I’m disappointed the Governor would use his veto pen on a Charter bill to make a misguided political statement is an understatement.”
(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools is effectively repealing its mask mandate for all students and staff.
The move, which takes effect tomorrow (March 1), responds to new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, which was released on Friday. No opt-out form is required for those who do not wish to wear masks.
The CDC changed how it measures the severity of Covid at the local level and relaxed its masking guidelines. Now, it advises most Americans to wear a mask only when Covid-related hospitalization rates are high so as not to overwhelm hospitals. When that rate is low or moderate — it’s currently low in Arlington County, according to the CDC — people can forego face coverings.
More from a School Talk email sent to APS families this afternoon:
Dear APS Staff and Families,
On Friday evening, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published updated guidance that included new metrics for measuring COVID-19 community levels.
The CDC’s new guidance lists Arlington’s current COVID-19 community level as low, and states that masks should be optional in communities at the low level.
APS will continue following the CDC’s guidance for operating safely to allow everyone — students, families, staff and visitors — to decide whether they will wear a mask at school and on the school bus. This change takes effect March 1, and there is no opt-out form required. APS will adjust these requirements, should community levels change. More information is available online.
Mask-wearing is a personal decision based on individual circumstances, and I ask everyone to support our students and each other. We will continue to foster inclusive, safe and supportive learning environments for all. Families, please talk to your student(s) regarding your expectations for mask-wearing and remind them to be kind and respect their peers as they exercise decisions to wear a mask or not.
Although APS is dropping its mask mandate, Arlington’s Public Health Division is waiting for more guidance from the state, says spokesman Ryan Hudson.
The county has required visitors to county facilities to wear masks if they can’t maintain six feet of distance from others. Arlington Public Library has required visitors age two and older, regardless of vaccination status, to mask up since August, which also won’t be changing right now, says library spokesman Henrik Sundqvist.
“In light of the CDC updating the way it monitors COVID-19’s impact on our communities, Arlington County is awaiting updates on the Virginia Department of Health’s mask guidance,” Hudson said. “At this time, there are no changes to the mask policy for County employees and government buildings.”
Right now, the VDH page on masking recommendations is blank save for the following message: “VDH is currently reviewing its mask guidance. Thank you for your patience; updated information will be available soon.”
Once a decision is made, Hudson said, the county will update residents via newsletter, website updates and social media.
“Layered prevention strategies — like staying up to date on vaccines and wearing masks — can help prevent severe illness and reduce the potential for strain on the healthcare system,” he noted.
There hasn’t been a blanket mask mandate in Virginia since former Gov. Ralph Northam lifted it for those who are fully vaccinated in May of last year. But Arlingtonians have had to wear masks in public schools, county buildings and libraries. Anecdotally, residents also stepped up voluntary masking whenever Covid cases surged.
(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) This afternoon, a group of Washington-Liberty High School students are giving their peers more than 100 copies of two politically controversial books.
The books are “Beloved,” Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel following a Black family during the Reconstruction era, and “Maus,” Art Spiegelman’s award-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust and his father’s life during World War II. Both have explicit content that has some parents and politicians questioning their place in schools.
Controversy around “Beloved” is part of the origin story for a bill passed by the state Senate earlier this month, which would require teachers to label classroom materials that have sexually explicit content. “Maus,” meanwhile, rocketed into the national spotlight after a Tennessee school board voted last month to remove the book from its curriculum due to “inappropriate language” and an illustration of a nude woman.
In addition to labeling classroom materials that have sexually explicit content, the new law requires teachers to notify parents if they are going to teach the materials. It gives parents the right to opt their children out of these lessons and request alternative materials.
But some high school students in Arlington and Fairfax counties are calling the law “backdoor censorship” and organized the distribution in response. It began at 3:15 p.m. in Quincy Park, near W-L.
“Great thinkers and proud Virginians like Thomas Jefferson, Maggie Walker, James Madison, George Mason and Oliver Hill — men and women who understood the importance of education and the value of studying difficult and divisive ideas — are rolling over in their graves,” W-L freshman and giveaway organizer Aaron Zevin-Lopez said in a statement.
Zevin-Lopez tells ARLnow he teamed up with George Marshall High School student Matt Savage — who has been facilitating distributions in Northern Virginia schools this month — to host a book giveaway in Arlington.
“Kids at my school understood that the Governor was attempting to limit reading rights within schools, so we thought that handing out the books beforehand could be a great way to spread the message of resistance and making sure the youth understands our past, both good and bad,” Zevin-Lopez said.
The two students are leaders of the Virginia chapter of a Gen-Z political advocacy group called Voters of Tomorrow, which is providing financial support for the giveaway.
“When the government establishes laws to label literature in terms of a single factor like ‘sexually explicit’, regardless of that factor’s significance to the larger world of literary merit or meaning, it edges closer to censorship,” said Savage, president of Voters of Tomorrow Virginia. “It means we are labeling content for the sole purpose of suppressing it.”
Watch out @GlennYoungkin, we’ve been handing out copies of ‘Beloved’ at Virginia high schools. Students deserve access to literature that teaches real history, and we’re proud to provide it. Thanks @nachyomommy and @MrMattSavage for organizing distribution – give them a follow! pic.twitter.com/QO1AWgYyzZ
— Voters of Tomorrow Virginia (@VOTVirginia) February 23, 2022
The students say requiring teachers to define their lessons in terms of how much “sexually explicit” content it contains will dissuade them from using anything that may be considered “objectionable.” They add that the law will force teachers to draft two entire lesson plans for one class on the objection of just one parent.
The bill is similar to one passed in 2016, which became known as the “Beloved” bill because it was inspired by a mother’s attempt to have the novel removed from her son’s English class. It was vetoed, however, by Gov. Terry McAuliffe — and his veto narrowly avoided being overturned by the House of Delegates.
The question of parental involvement in education became a central theme of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s gubernatorial campaign after McAuliffe said during a debate, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
Passing the law was a campaign promise of and priority for Youngkin when he assumed office. The Republican governor unsuccessfully tried to pass other laws, including one rooting out curriculum based on critical race theory, and created a tip line for people to report teaching strategies they object to.
The school system hasn’t yet outlined how it will change its policy, which currently mandates students wear masks indoors, but the new state law allows parents to opt their children out of mask requirements.
“APS has been reviewing the latest health guidance and planning for when we can safely ease our masks requirements,” spokesperson Andrew Robinson said in a statement. “We will present our plan and revised policy at Thursday’s School Board meeting. We have come far together as a community in maintaining safe, open schools, even during the Omicron spike, and we will continue that work together.”
The Arlington School Board and six other Northern Virginia school boards sued Youngkin challenging his power to prohibit local mandates and were able to continue requiring masks until the lawsuit was resolved. But Senate Bill 739 makes that suit moot, establishing the order as law.
“This new legislation supersedes the Executive Order, so the injunction in the Arlington case is moot starting March 1,” a spokesperson in the Office of the Attorney General told ARLnow.
The bill ultimately passed the state Senate last week and the House of Delegates Monday before it swiftly made its way to Youngkin for a signature.
Tune in as I sign bill SB739 into law,
empowering parents by creating a
parental opt-out from local school
— Governor Glenn Youngkin (@GovernorVA) February 16, 2022
And as APS may have to roll back its masking requirement, the school board is also set to vote on whether to pause an in-house Virtual Learning Program (VLP) it debuted this school year for families who preferred keeping their kids home due to the ongoing pandemic.
“VLP families fear that many, faced with an impossible choice, will be forced back into APS facilities,” said the VLP Parent Coalition, which represents families in the program, in a statement. “Immunocompromised children and families will have no choice but to put themselves at risk for COVID-19 infection.”
APS has said that students may continue with virtual instruction through the state’s online learning platform, Virtual Virginia, if they or a family member has a medical condition that complicates going to school every day. APS staff will supplement whatever Virtual Virginia courses don’t cover and will support students during the transfer to their home schools.
But this alternative will likely result in less live, remote instruction for students when they have already experienced learning loss due to the pandemic and to understaffing when the VLP got started, the parent group said.
Jo DeVoe and Matt Blitz contributed to this article.