These Important State Laws Take Effect TodayJul. 01, 2019
Every year on July 1st, hundreds of new changes to Virginia’s laws officially go into effect. Here’s a few The Family Foundation fought hard for and against that you may want to know:
More educational options for parents and kids through expansion of the Education Improvement Scholarship Tax Credit program (EISTC).The program has been a huge success in recent years and continues to enable more children in families who cannot otherwise afford private education to receive a private scholarship to use towards a qualifying private school. SB 1015 (R-Stanley) expanded this flagship school choice initiative to include pre-kindergarten.
More parental oversight and involvement regarding sensitive materials in public schools. HB 2107 (R-Ransone) provides parents the opportunity to review any audio-visual materials containing graphic sexual or violent images used in any anti-bullying or suicide prevention lessons in public schools, and the ability to exclude their child if they deem the materials too graphic.
More protection for property rights in eminent domain situations. SB 1256 (R-Ruff) creates an income tax subtraction for gain recognized by a taxpayer from a government’s taking of real property. Landowners should not have their property taken, only to be slapped with a new tax liability.
More parental authority regarding the delegation of temporary custody. HB 2542 (R-Byron) allows a parent or legal custodian of a minor to delegate temporary custody in limited circumstances for up to 180 days, with the assistance of a private organization, without government intrusion.
Expansion of assisted conception through surrogacy laws to remove any biological significance for parenthood. HB 1979 (D-Sullivan) allows non-married individuals with no biological connection to an embryo to contract with a surrogate mother to birth a baby for them. The negative consequences of this bill range from children growing up without any knowledge of one or both biological parents, no protections against “selective reduction” abortions, and no limitations on the proliferation of new lab-created human embryos. This recent article from The Federalist also gets at the fundamental problems with this kind of policy.
To see the full list of laws taking effect today, click here.
Religious Liberty On the Line!May. 14, 2019
The federal “Equality Act” (H.R. 5) is moving through the House of Representatives at warp speed, and is scheduled to be voted on this week!
Last week I told you that this bill is one of the most dangerous pieces of federal legislation that I have seen in my lifetime, a comment that I do not make flippantly. And the more we learn about the potential impact of this legislation, the more my concerns grow.
The bill’s threats to religious liberty, free speech, churches and faith-based hospitals are well-established, but we are learning more about how this bill will actually cause greater harm to people. According to Dr. Michelle Cretella, a pediatrician and executive director of the American College of Pediatricians, H.R. 5 would force physicians to prescribe toxic hormones and drugs for adults and even children that can produce severe side effects, or even to perform serious medical procedures, all to “change” a person’s physical features to conform to their self-prescribed gender identity.
The so-called Equality Act would eliminate all parental authority related to the training and well-being of their children by prohibiting parents from ever interfering with a child’s access to transgender medical procedures. Sadly, this is no longer a hypothetical. Recently, parents in Ohio, which has a similar state law, had their parental rights terminated for failing to approve puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for their adolescent child.
We’ve learned that the so-called Equality Act would also provide that “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition” cannot be treated any differently than other physical conditions. This means all restrictions to abortion would be torn down, and anybody or any group who doesn’t want to fund or commit an abortion at any stage will be subject to punishment.
The reality is that this type of radical legislation has already permeated many state legislatures, and now the House is applying a full-court press to pass the so-called Equality Act at the federal level.
We cannot allow the government to push people with strong religious convictions into compromising their beliefs, or to usurp the prerogatives – and constitutional rights – of parents to guide the education and health of their children.
CLICK HERE to contact your Members of Congress today, and urge them to OPPOSE H.R. 5, the Equality Act. You can also reach your Congressman and Senators at (202) 224-3121. Don’t wait, the House plans to vote on this bill this week!
HUGE Response In Defense of Faith-Based Counselors!Apr. 23, 2019
We recently alerted our supporters that faith-based counselors are under attack in Virginia. I asked for your help to push back against this targeted ideological bigotry by submitting a comment on the Town Hall website addressing the Board of Counseling’s proposed Guidance Document that seeks to punish licensed counselors simply for affirming biological realities and instilling a healthy sexual outlook in children.
Nearly 600 commenters weighed in, including many Family Foundation supporters. And we were thrilled to see that, as of the close of the comment period last Wednesday, we estimate that around 75% of the comments condemned the Board’s efforts to silence counselors and deny children access to the critical counseling services they need in order to work through unwanted struggles and confusion in their sexuality.
Thank you to all of you who took the time to weigh in and stand up for counselors and children in Virginia. In doing so, you helped advance the cause of free speech, religious liberty, parental rights, patient autonomy, and truth itself.
Now the Board will have to provide some form of written response to all of the comments. Whatever the Board of Counseling ultimately decides to do, they will at least have to contend with and answer to hundreds of compelling comments as to why they should not – and by law, cannot – implement this policy.
We’ll keep you posted on what happens next. Thank you for your valuable help on this!
They Taught Kindergarteners What?Mar. 27, 2019
Have you heard about the recent upheaval in response to Arlington County Schools’ efforts to indoctrinate Kindergarteners with radical gender theories without parents’ consent? We first became aware of the situation when The Washington Post reported on it earlier this month. (Watch our video about it on our Facebook page, and please "Like" and "Follow" our page.)
According to the Post, “Students throughout the country were expected to participate in the National Education Association’s annual Read Across America Day. It was the first time the union partnered with the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for LGBT civil rights.”
As part of this ‘reading day’ in partnership with the leading national LGBTQ advocacy group, Ashlawn Elementary brought in a prominent LGBTQ advocate and a self-described “transgender woman” to read a book called “I Am Jazz” to 5-year olds. “I have a girl brain but a boy body. This is called transgender. I was born this way,” the advocate read to the students from the book. Here's an excerpt from the Post’s article that should give you chills:
After her reading, McBride told the children, “I’m like Jazz. When I was born, the doctors and my parents, they all thought that I was a boy.”
“Why?” asked a girl in a blue sweater and ponytail.
“Because society, people around them told them that was the case,” McBride said. “It took me getting a little bit older to be able to say that in my heart and in my mind, I knew I was really a girl.”
The kids began discussing hair.
“Can some girls have short hair?” McBride asked. “And can some boys have long hair?”
Yes, the youngsters seemed to agree, answering in unison.
“Anyone can be anything,” one girl chimed in. [End of article]
Do you see how effective something like this can be in deceiving young children about their God-given design? Is it any wonder that some reports show a 4,000 percent increase in children identifying as the opposite sex over the past 10 years?
Fox 5 reported on this a day after the Post’s article, stating that: “The school district says parents were notified by a letter ahead of time and were allowed to opt out of they chose. However, to their knowledge, no one did.” That made us wonder what this “letter” actually said. Had parents actually been told about all of this? So we checked it out, first by reaching out to the school principal for a copy (with no success), and then through an official Virginia Freedom of Information Act request. They got the message, and we got the letter.
And what do you know…we noticed that the letter never even hinted at an opportunity for parents to opt their children out of this event. Nor did it say anything about an LGBTQ transgender activist reading to the children and discussing these topics with them. We also confirmed that the principal only sent the letter out in English, despite having a significant number of families in the school whose parents speak another primary language.
After our team unveiled what various news outlets were evidently uninterested in discovering, we let our coalition friends know, and this story quickly spread like wildfire, being featured on places like Townhall, The Federalist, The Daily Wire, Life Site News, and One News Now, as well as various talk and radio shows.
There is much we could say about all this, but we think all of this sufficiently speaks for itself. Be assured that we will continue to closely watch, unveil, and call out these increasingly frequent attempts to indoctrinate children into these destructive ideologies. And if you learn of something happening in your locality, please let us know so that we can address it. We all must be more vigilant than ever.
Your support makes our vigilance possible. Please consider making a donation today to help us continue our work!
Action Alert: Proposed Regulations to Punish and Silence Faith-Based CounselorsMar. 19, 2019
Since the radical Left has tried and failed year after year in the legislature to silence counselors from sharing with clients the self-evident realities of human identity and sexuality, the current administration is now eyeing an alternative path to accomplish this censorship: administrative regulations. The state Boards of Counseling, Psychology, and Social Work have now begun the process of adopting Guidance Documents and full-scale regulations to stifle licensed professionals’ free speech rights, with the direct consequence of denying patients their basic right to direct the objectives of the counseling they seek.
ACTION: Click HERE to enter a comment on the townhall.gov website, and tell the VA Board of Counseling not to punish licensed counselors for helping patients overcome their unwanted sexual feelings by affirming biological realities concerning male and female. (Click on “Enter a comment”)
To learn more about the context of the issue, read our blogs about it here and here.
The public comment period to weigh in on this ideologically-driven movement officially begins today and will end on 4/17/19. The Board of Counseling members need to hear from the public about why this action would be wrong, dangerous, and unconstitutional.
The health regulatory boards have labeled the practice of helping someone overcome unwanted same-sex attractions or gender dysphoria as “conversion therapy,” when in reality it should more rightly be characterized as “Biological Affirmation Counseling.” Notice how extreme the Board’s definition of “conversion therapy” is in its draft Guidance Document and how much of an obvious double standard it sets up:
“For the purposes of this guidance ‘conversion therapy’ … is defined as any practice or treatment that seeks to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of any gender.”
BUT THEN, the Board continues…
“’Conversion therapy’ does not include counseling that provides assistance to a person undergoing gender transition or counseling that provides acceptance, support, and understanding of a person or facilitates a person's coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual-orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices, as long as such counseling does not seek to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity in any direction.”
In other words, counselors are ALLOWED to help a minor client to explore and facilitate same-sex feelings, attractions and behaviors, or even to “change” their sex altogether, but they are strictly PROHIBITED from helping a minor client struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions from developing a natural and Biblical sexual ethic, or aiding a child dealing with gender dysphoria in learning to embrace his or her biological status as either male or female. So, children can change in one direction, but not the other.
The Board’s “guidance” to counselors is clear and simple: If you hold to the natural, biological, historical and/or Biblical understanding of human sexuality, be prepared to lose your professional license.
We cannot stand idly by and let this happen. Please CLICK HERE to leave your comment to the Board of Counseling!
Parental Rights: Several Big Wins and a Few Near Wins [2019 General Assembly Recap Part 2]Mar. 08, 2019
2019 became a big year for parents. We fought hard to pass several important bills to afford parents more options, involvement, and oversight in their children’s education. These initiatives were often our most strategic and time-consuming legislative battles, even while they were frequently overshadowed by the more hot-button issues. HB 2107 (R-Ransone) was one great bill that has made it to the Governor’s desk. It provides parents the opportunity to review any audio-visual materials that contain graphic sexual or violent images used in conjunction with any anti-bullying or suicide prevention lessons in public schools, and the ability to exclude their child if they deem the materials too graphic.
Unfortunately, HB 2570 (R-LaRock), which would have required schools to obtain parents’ permission for their child to participate in the Family Life Education ("Sex Ed") lessons, failed in the Senate after passing the House with a hard-fought 51 votes. We made this a major priority this year, in light of all the new graphic and aggressively-ideological messaging that is being pushed onto kids in various school districts. We will keep fighting to make this common-sense policy a reality for families.
The flagship school choice initiative in Virginia – the Education Investment Scholarship Tax Credit Program – was successfully expanded to pre-kindergarten this year through the passage of SB 1015 (R-Stanley), and now awaits the Governor’s action. The program has been a huge success in recent years and continues to enable more children in families who cannot otherwise afford private education to receive a private scholarship to use towards a qualifying private school. It's another step towards ensuring that parents to have every opportunity to get the best possible education for their children, according to their values. SB 1590(R-Dunnavant) was another good education choice bill that would have expanded the online “Virtual Virginia” program to all public schools statewide. Unfortunately, after passing the Senate, it failed in the House.
Numerous bills sought to provide protections and opportunities for homeschooled students. Among them, SB 1275 (R-Black) would have allowed home-schooled high school students to participate in the federally-sponsored Junior ROTC program at their local school. After a hard-fought battle, having passed in the Senate, it was defeated on a tie vote in a House Committee. A bill to allow homeschool students to participate in the Driver’s Ed program at their local public school also unfortunately failed.
Finally, HB 2542 (R-Byron) is another great bill that passed and awaits the Governor’s action. It seeks to keep families together by allowing for the temporary delegation of parental or legal custodial powers to a trusted third party for families facing a crisis or extraordinary circumstances. Instead of having to enter “the system” of Social Services, qualifying parents could work with a licensed child-placing agency to have someone care for their kids for a limited time in order for them to work out family problems, deploy overseas for a combat tour, or other scenarios like these.
Overall, despite a few razor-thin losses on a couple of important bills we fought hard to advance, we are thrilled to report that 2019 saw significant gains for parental rights and options!
A Tragic Loss for Life and FamilyFeb. 22, 2019
On Wednesday, by a vote of 63-36 the House of Delegates, unfortunately, agreed to the Senate’s nominally-amended version of HB 1979 (D-48, Sullivan). (The Senate passed it 28-12.) The bill will now make its way to the Governor’s desk for his signature. Make no mistake, this legislation will bring a dramatic and harmful policy shift concerning the creation and treatment of human life, the rights of children, the basis for parenthood, the significance of marriage, and the dynamics of the parent-child relationship. Despite the numerous victories so far this session, the passage of HB 1979 is of profound damage to the family.
Some have called this bill "pro-life" because it will now allow single people and same-sex couples to contract with a surrogate mother to implant one or more of the one million "snowflake babies," which have been created in labs and are currently frozen. But those same legislators completely disregarded the obvious incentives this bill creates, which will only lead to countless more human embryos being created in labs, frozen, and left to languish. While we, too, want existing human embryos to have the opportunity to fully develop, this bill will only ensure this problem is multiplied.
Another reason this bill cannot be pro-life is because it allows surrogacy contracts to include forced abortions, including “selective reductions,” which is the horrific practice of killing some of the babies in the womb, while leaving one or more alive. Some contracts also allow the intended parents to be able to require abortion of the child(ren) if the child appears to have a disability, or simply if they change their minds about wanting the child. This is commonplace in surrogacy contracts, and current Virginia law does not prohibit these types of agreements. This bill will greatly expand the number of surrogacy contracts, but without doing anything to protect against forced abortions at the demands of the “intended parents.”
For the first time, this bill would sever the biological connection between a child and his or her parents before the child is ever born. Current law requires at least one parent to be a genetic parent of the child who is being intentionally created through assisted conception. This bill allows for there to be no genetic connection at all, replacing the legal basis for parenthood with a mere contract among willing adults, which effectively flips the current custodial paradigm of “best interests of the child” to one of merely the desires and intentions of any adult.
Tragically, this bill, for the first time, allows for a child to be intentionally and permanently deprived of either a mother or a father before they are even born, and for the entirety of their life. (The bill removed all the references to “father”, “mother”, “husband” and “wife”.) Yet every person innately understands the value of having both a mother and father, and those who grow up without either a mother or a father tend to have a deep longing to have and to know them. Since the bill now allows single and non-married persons to contract with someone to produce a child for them through surrogacy simply because they want one, this Commonwealth has just declared that when it comes to bringing children into the world, married homes are no more preferred than single-parent homes.
While the outcome is incredibly disappointing, we witnessed throughout the process incredible courage on the part of some legislators who did not succumb to the outside pressures to support this bill. We want to especially thank Delegate Dave LaRock (R-33, Hamilton) for his commitment to protecting unborn life and speaking on the House floor in opposition to HB 1979 several times, including his great floor speech yesterday. Watch it HERE.
HB 1979 is a clear illustration of the lengths that the Left (and now, even some on the Right) will go to in order to redefine the family by stripping away the biological connections between parents and children and to protect the barbaric practice of selective reduction and abortion.
Please pray for us as we continue to fight against these dangerous anti-life and anti-family policies.
Opt-Outs are Unreliable: Part 2Nov. 08, 2018
In a previous post I provided an example of how there are inherent administrative pitfalls that make “opt-out” policies simply unreliable.
Now it appears that an opt-out policy is unsatisfactory because it doesn’t go far enough for those it was designed to benefit. Last month, parents of students at Robious Middle School in Chesterfield County heard that the school had decided not to sing certain songs at a Christmas concert because a few students complained that the songs contained references to Jesus. Aside from the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled that religious songs are permissible in public schools, what’s puzzling about this instance is that the County considers religious music to be an appropriate part of a school’s overall education enrichment. Their policy on religious beliefs and customs provides the following:
This policy recognizes the pluralism of religious beliefs of citizens and the significance of religion in Virginia's history. The historical and contemporary values and the origin of religion may be explained in an unbiased and objective manner without sectarian indoctrination.
Music, art, literature, history, world language and drama, among others, having religious themes or bases are permitted as a part of the curriculum for school‑sponsored activities and programs if presented in a prudent and objective manner and as a traditional part of the cultural and religious heritage.
The use of religious symbols that are a part of a religion may be permitted as a teaching aid or resource provided such symbols are displayed as an example of the cultural and religious heritage and are temporary in nature.
Within the County’s religious beliefs and customs policy is what amounts to an “opt-out” accommodation, which states:
[i]n that spirit of respect, students and staff members may be excused from participating in activities that are contrary to their religious beliefs unless there are clear issues of compelling public interest that would prevent it. [Emphasis added]
Under the current mechanics of an opt-out policy, a student is afforded the opportunity to be excused from an activity or curriculum that conflicts with his or her beliefs, while still permitting the other students to continue to participate.
That’s not what happened at Robious Middle School.
Instead of exercising the discretion afforded by the County’s policies, the teacher decided to eliminate all religious themed music from the production because parents of students simply did not find the opt-out accommodation adequate. That means that students who wanted to sing songs containing religious overtones were denied that opportunity.
What happened at Robious Middle School actually rendered the opt-out policy null and void.
Using this same rationale, it would be like saying that if one or more students who object to the human sexuality component of FLE instruction on religious or moral grounds and elect to opt-out should result in the school’s decision to eliminate all materials dealing with human sexuality for all students.
It appears that the County would have been much better off with an “opt-in” policy, whereby parents could have made their decision to allow their children to participate in the production based on the types of songs that were going to be performed.
Opt-outs are Unreliable: Part 1Nov. 06, 2018
Public school “Opt-out” policies are simply unreliable.
The Family Foundation has consistently argued that opt-out policies fail to provide parents a reliable means for ensuring that their children are excused from school activities and curriculum that conflict with their worldview without the potential for ridicule, embarrassment, or unwarranted questions.
Consider opt-out accommodations for family life education (FLE). We have long articulated that parents have the primary responsibility of teaching their children values and morals about human sexuality, not school administrators. However, opt-out policies give the false impression that the school is the best environment for teaching on this subject, and that parents can only exercise their parental authority by electing to excuse their child from such sensitive FLE instruction. Further, opt-out options only subject students to embarrassment and ridicule by having them leave the classroom, in front of their peers, before FLE instruction begins.
At least they are giving parents a secure means to remove their children from FLE instruction, right? Not really. The opt-out policy does not always achieve its intended goal.
A few years ago one of my children was not properly removed from the FLE component of instruction time. My wife and I signed my child’s opt-out form, submitted it to the teacher, but the teacher accidentally removed the wrong student and left my child in the classroom for FLE instruction. The teacher, who is an outstanding educator and arguably one of the best teachers in our children’s school, simply made a mistake. Unfortunately, the oversight resulted in a violation of our parental authority and forced my wife and I to address some topics that our young child was not prepared to consider just yet. The teacher offered a sincere apology, which we accepted, and we all moved forward. I doubt all parents, if in the same situation, would have been as forgiving and understanding.
Nevertheless, clerical or administrative errors like this are inherent in the opt-out policy, and it is likely that oversights such as this occur often and simply go unreported. Also, you cannot dismiss the unnecessary burden that is placed on the administrators and teachers to ensure that oversights such as this do not happen.
In order to avoid these potential pitfalls, the best solution is to apply an “opt-in” approach to FLE instruction. This would ensure that only students with proper approval and documentation will be allowed into a classroom in which FLE instruction was being offered. If a school is able to work with hundreds of parents and students to assign them to their desired electives, then it should be expected that it can also work with parents to decide if an FLE class is right for their child.
Parents: Get Involved In SchoolSep. 24, 2018
Keep your public school district from becoming just like Fairfax!
Fairfax County Schools may be excellent in their academic training, but their social engineering is out of control. This year the School Board voted to teach children that “sex is assigned at birth” and that abstinence is not 100% effective at preventing Sexually Transmitted Infections.
Now the school board is paying Dr. Amy Przeworski to speak during their mental health and wellness conference this weekend. Perhaps Dr. Przeworski is the best candidate for the presentation, but one of her current projects is an online survey of “Coming Out in the LGBT Community,” and the questions in that 45-minute long survey skew very strongly toward an ideological position decrying “homophobia” and celebrating “diversity.”
Fairfax County Public Schools is buying into the LGBTQ ideology more completely every year.
So what does this have to do with you and your local school district?
The decision about who comes to speak at school events is made by various committees in the schools. Do you know who makes those decisions in your schools?
Would you be surprised to learn that you can help make the decisions about what speakers, events, programs, and mandatory staff training is pushed through your school district? You can.
Right now the Henrico County School District has formed an Equity and Diversity Advisory Committee to shape decisions about sexual orientation and gender diversity policies in those schools. The members of that committee have been required to undergo mandatory training from the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (VCIC).
VCIC includes school resources on gender that say “All Teachers Should Be Trained to Overcome Their Hidden Bias,” and “It’s OK to Be Neither: Teaching That Supports Gender-Variant Children.”
Another group currently influencing school policies is the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which has resources for elementary and middle school students. Some of the resources promoting the radical LGBTQ agenda from the ADL include books like “PRIDE: the Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag,” and lesson plans about “Marriage Equality” for elementary and middle school aged children!
Is your school district being directed by the influence of the VCIC and the ADL with respect to the LGBTQ agenda? Would you rather have that influence?
You can be a guardian for those school children. You can be the voice of reason in the school system. Contact your local school district to find out ways that you can volunteer either with a Diversity Committee (like in Henrico) or another committee that makes decisions about what children are taught about sexuality and gender.
One way of getting involved is by joining the committees that already exist in your school district. You can also volunteer with programs operated through your local pregnancy resource center to provide abstinence education, like the “I Am Enough” curriculum, in the Family Life Education classes.
The main point is to be present and be involved in the education in your community, to shine a light in your community.
As you participate in your local school, it is important to be civil. Our speech should always be gracious, so that we can speak the words that make a positive difference in our communities.
What is Being Taught in Your School?Jul. 23, 2018
On Friday the Republican National Committee adopted a resolution calling on state legislators to protect children from exposure to unsuitable content in sex education (“Family Life Education”) classes across the nation. Click here to read the Resolution Protecting Students From Exposure to Potentially Unsuitable Content by Supporting a Parent's Right to Grant Prior Written Consent for Sex Education.
This resolution was brought forward by Virginia’s National Committeewoman, Cynthia Dunbar. The resolution was passed unanimously by the full General Session.
"I'm thrilled this resolution passed.” Cynthia Dunbar said, “This should not be a partisan issue. Parents everywhere deserve the right to know what their children are being taught, and afforded an opportunity to consent to it."
She is right on. Parents deserve the right to know the content of the curriculum their children are being taught about sex and sexuality, and schools should have to get parental consent before exposing their children to that content.
Although Virginia law currently requires the FLE curriculum be made available to parents for review, we know that in Western Albemarle County salacious videos were shown to 14-year-old girls without ever being available for parents to review.
Parents in Fort Worth Texas were not allowed to review the materials in their children’s sex-ed classes, and the Attorney General of Texas issued a statement reminding the school district that the law requires the disclosure of these public documents.
Here in Virginia, school districts across the Commonwealth have been dragging their feet when asked to provide parents the Family Life Education curriculum taught to their young children. Parents in Loudoun County were refused access to the full curriculum, and told that they could only review it all during a three day review session coming up in late August – after school has begun.
I am so glad that the Republican National Committee has adopted this resolution in support of parental authority. The other political parties should do the same.
The Family Foundation is working to get legislation passed through the General Assembly to accomplish the goals set forth in the resolution. Indiana has already taken significant steps toward that goal. You can help us by signing this petition. Use your voice to urge the Virginia General Assembly to protect children from unsuitable content, and to protect parental authority.
You can also help keep your school district accountable by reviewing the Family Life Education there. If you would like to be involved in this effort in your school district, please email me, Sean Maguire, at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d like to be in touch with you about how to effectively approach your school district to find out what is being taught in Family Life Education.
Schools have to get prior parental permission for their children to be involved in something as innocuous as music ensembles. There is no reason why schools shouldn’t have to get parental permission before exposing children to the sensitive and ideologically charged content of Family Life Education.
FLE Opt-In Wins in IndianaJul. 06, 2018
Virginia’s public school Family Life Education (FLE) curriculum has been taking hits recently. In Fairfax County, changes were made to the curriculum - including statements that sex is assigned at birth, not a biological fact (language lauded by some as more inclusive and accepting of all students who walk the halls of the Fairfax schools). Many parents worry that such language, aside from being scientifically incorrect, will confuse children; other parents say it will liberate them.
There is now a statewide push to make FLE “opt-in” rather than “opt-out.” Currently, parents can opt their child out of FLE if they are able to locate the proper form, fill it out, and send it to their child’s school. Many – perhaps even most – parents are unaware of this possibility, and even fewer know what is being taught in the classrooms; they do not realize there is any reason to consider opting their child out at all. The opt-in route might require a bit more paperwork, but it would certainly make it easier for parents to make the decision if they know about the choice up front. One woman I spoke with aptly rephrased “opt-in” as “ask parent’s permission” before teaching FLE to their child.
Opt-in just won in the state of Indiana. On July 1 of this year, the Indiana Senate Enrolled Act 65 was signed into law, making it illegal for public schools to teach FLE to students without prior written consent from parents. One article that is not fond of the new law remarked: “Leave it to Indiana to require permission slips before students can receive an education.” This is not an issue of just any kind of education, though. No one is protesting children being taught math or geography. This is about the impressionability of young children and their exposure to things their parents should decide are appropriate or not for them to learn (at their current age or at all). As the foremost educators of their child, parents have the right to know what is being taught in the FLE program and the right to choose whether or not they deem it appropriate for their child. Schools already must obtain written permission before a child can attend a field trip, play on a sports team, or participate in band. As Senator Dennis Kruse, author of the Indiana bill, stated: “if anything needed an opt-in parental consent… it’s human sexuality study.”
Virginia should take heart and follow Indiana. We ought to value the minds and lives of our school children enough to ensure similar protections for them. And we ought to have the good sense to recognize that when it comes to children and such sensitive matters as sexuality, parents are a far better and more appropriate judge than the state.
The Family Foundation is collecting signatures on a petition calling for the General Assembly to make Virginia’s FLE “opt-in,” requiring schools to get parental permission before exposing children to sex ed. You can add your name to the petition online right now. Click here to sign the petition.
By Jordan Hodge
Jordan is a 2018 Summer Policy Intern at The Family Foundation and a graduate of Northeast Catholic College.
School Board Votes Against ScienceJun. 15, 2018
Last night I was at the Fairfax County Public School Board meeting at the Luther Jackson Middle School. The room was packed with people wearing pink, purple, or green.
Those wearing pink and purple supported making changes to the Family Life Education, such as using the ideologically charged term “sex assigned at birth” in place of the scientifically accurate term “biological sex.”
Why do they argue that this change should be made? One man in purple said it was so that transgendered people can “follow their feelings.”
Those wearing green supported keeping science and reality at the center of the Family Life Education curriculum. “My son was my son before birth, and his sex was never assigned,” one mother in green said in opposing the recommended changes. “Everyone in the medical community referred to my unborn son as a ‘boy,’” never questioning the chromosomal reality that was revealed through blood work and an ultrasound before he was ever born.
Using the term “sex assigned at birth” takes away from the dignity of the unborn. Children who tragically die during pregnancy are no less the sons and daughters of those who love them.
Despite the 1,318 email comments received by the school board last week (83% of which opposed the term “sex assigned at birth”), the School Board rejected Board Member Elizabeth Schultz’s motion to postpone the vote until the parents could be adequately engaged. The Board members did not have any opportunity to read, much less discuss, those public comments prior to the meeting where they were to vote on the proposal.
Parents of all backgrounds throughout the community want to be engaged, but are not able to do so in such a short time, Shultz argued. “We must engage the public in a meaningful way. This is not happening.” She moved to postpone the vote until October.
Other members of the School Board, including Megan McLaughlin, opposed the motion to postpone. “Thousands is not 1.1 million.” McLaughlin said, referring to the size of Fairfax County. She said that the School Board should vote now, confident in these proposed changes because of the vetting by staff and other subject matter experts. She said that the FLE changes came “from those individuals who know this subject matter far better.”
Claiming to respect families, the School Board voted against Shultz’s motion and voted to pass the change to the term “sex assigned at birth” by 10 to 2.
Shultz responded to the statement about looking to subject matter experts by pointing out that 8 of 10 parents who participated in public comments on this subject opposed the change. “I will tell you that the most important educational experts that we should be listening to are parents.”
The School Board did not listen to these parents. They did not listen to the testimony from doctors and the scientific and medical community about why “biological sex” is the appropriate term. They voted overwhelmingly in support of the change to use the term “sex assigned at birth.”
Parents in Fairfax have an opportunity to make their voices heard when the School Board election happens on November 5th, 2019.
Fairfax FLE Changes are "an Insult"May. 25, 2018
Yesterday I was at the Fairfax County School Board meeting. I was surrounded scores of Fairfax residents who came to speak up about the Family Life Education changes that are being recommended for students.
Some of the most drastic changes being proposed include:
1. Teaching that “sex is assigned at birth” rather than “biological.”
2. Instructing children about “PreP,” an HIV prevention drug that is designed for use by people engaging in anal sex.
3. Removing “Clergy” from the list of “trusted adults” that students can talk to about sex.
4. Moving part of the Family Life Education curriculum out of FLE and moving it to health class – so that parents don’t have the opt-out option for their children!
Not only are these ideas dangerous for students – teaching them things that are not in accordance with medical and scientific realities – but they are insulting to clergy and restrict parental authority.
Bishop Burbridge, the Bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese over Fairfax, said that it is “a great insult that our clergy who give their lives to serving young people and helping them do what is good and right might be removed from a list of someone who can be trusted. I take that as a personal insult.” He said, urging everyone in Fairfax to take action and contact the School Board. Hundreds have done so.
I am encouraged to see that so many people are concerned about this issue and are taking action. People throughout Fairfax are making their voices heard by sending e-mails with their concerns to the Public Comment address. That public comment period remains open on this topic until June 8th.
Not as many of those residents who want to protect children and teach them biological realities were present at the School Board meeting itself. Last night I was surrounded by close to 60 people dressed in purple and pink, waving rainbow flags, and holding signs that said, “Science supports LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum.”
Their arguments are not sound, and do not reflect what science clearly teaches about human biology and reproduction. This group, supported by FCPS Pride, often accomplishes their agenda through volume, not facts.
Their spokesperson made a comment to the School Board endorsing all of these recommended changes. He was supported by close to 60 people standing up behind him. He said that any opposition to the changes was being motivated by a “polished PR office in Richmond” (referring to me). He doesn’t believe that any Fairfax County residents actually care about these changes.
He’s wrong. Fairfax residents do care about what is being taught in public school. It is important that they show their concern by attending the next School Board Meeting on June 14th at 7:00pm at the Luther Jackson Middle School.
For more information on making public comments and attending the School Board Meeting, e-mail me at email@example.com or by calling 804-343-0010 extension 240.
Ideology v. BiologyApr. 13, 2018
What should schools teach boys and girls about sex? Should schools teach that “boys” and “girls” are biological realities, or should they teach that “sex is assigned at birth” and is changed throughout life based on individual feelings?
The only way to influence the ways these questions are answered is by being actively involved in your school board. Apathy from a majority of the members of the Fairfax County Public School “Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee” (FLECAC) – the group of parents, teachers, and community members responsible for making recommended changes to sex education curriculum – led to that body recommending that “biological sex” be changed to “sex assigned at birth” last night.
21 of these community members voted to use the language “sex assigned at birth” in place of “biological sex.” Only 3 dissented. This is an ideological change, and has nothing to do with scientific, medical, or biological realities. One of the leaders of the ideological effort said it best herself when she said, “I don’t think scientifically, medically, biologically [sic] at all matters in this discussion.”
She only said this after the Biological and Medical facts were put on the table. Initially the argument for approving of this language change was that “we need to use the scientifically accurate terms,” and that “sex assigned at birth” was the accurate term. It was only after one of the dissenting members of the committee pointed to a list of quotes from medical and biological resources that support “biological sex” that the story changed and science and medicine didn’t matter anymore.
After the vote was taken and the meeting adjourned, I asked several members of the committee why they voted the way that they did. Two refused to answer, saying that they were not interested in discussing why they voted to use “sex assigned at birth” rather than “biological sex.” Another said, “Honestly, I was lost in the discussion and I don’t think it matters that much.”
This absolutely does matter.
Using the term, “sex assigned at birth,” gives support to the idea that “sex” is something determined by subjective feelings, and not by objective biological realities. It reinforces the idea that if children feel different, they are different.
Being told by teachers that they are different from all the other boys and girls is not good for children. Confusing children about biological realities in order to reinforce your ideological position is not good.
The School Board of Fairfax County still has to approve of these recommendations. Their next meeting is on April 26th, and the public is invited to make their voices heard both in writing and by attending the meeting.
Only 10 spots are available to speak at this meeting. If you live in Fairfax County, sign up to speak by following the instructions online. If you live somewhere else in Virginia, contact your school board and find out what they are teaching children about sex.
We cannot afford to be apathetic. Truth and facts must be defended.
Opposing the Transgender MomentMar. 23, 2018
What is required to be labeled an "anti-trans activist?" Very little indeed.
According to Newsweek Magazine, all it takes is support for gender-specific bathrooms in schools.
I'm an anti-trans activist by this standard. So is everyone else who believes in scientific genetic standards, social norms that distinguish between the sexes, and protecting children from potential sexual harm. That’s all that Bethany Kozma did in Fairfax, and now she is being attacked in national news articles.
For years the Fairfax County Public Schools have been pushing to embrace the full scope of what has been called the “transgender moment.” Most recently that includes a recommendation from the Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee (FLECAC) that the term “biological sex” be removed from the curriculum and replaced with the term “sex assigned at birth.”
Those who have opposed this change in vernacular – supporting teaching that reflects biological reality instead of ideology – have been attacked just like Bethany Kozma is being attacked. One member of FLECAC was unceremoniously (and arguably illegally) removed from her seat and replaced by Dan Press, a vocal advocate of the LGBT+ agenda. Dan Press used the rules of parliamentary procedure to silence all opposition to his proposals the first day he was on the committee.
Civil society can't survive in this kind of vicious atmosphere. Newsweek is shilling opinion pieces that divide everyone into groups. Dan Press and others on committees and school boards across the Commonwealth are shutting down opposition. They are vilifying anyone who disagrees with the transgender movement.
We are not villains. We are your neighbors.
We must act neighborly even when under attack. We must not return insult for insult. We must speak the truth in love – which means with real love, not just lip-service to that sacred idea. We must pray for those who oppose us more than we speak against them.
I'm prepared to be perpetually hated for what I believe. I pray that I'll be able to get close enough to those who hate me to show them true love.
The next FLECAC meeting is on April 12 in Fairfax, VA. Several members of the committee are planning to present textbooks and scientific and medical articles which demonstrate that “biological sex” is a valid term, and should not be replaced with the ideologically charged term, “sex assigned at birth.” Help by sending links to scientific and medical articles that use the term “biological sex” to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"No Pre-K for low-income families"Feb. 28, 2018
Monday morning, the House Finance Committee defeated SB 172, a bill that would have made it possible for thousands of low-income families to send their children to private school Pre-K, many of which are faith-based programs. The bill, patroned by Senator Bill Stanley (R-20, Moneta) created a tax credit for donations made to a scholarship fund to pay for private tuition for families who cannot otherwise afford it, but who want a different option for their children. Unfortunately, the bill died on an 11-11 vote, with the public school teachers union and other public education monopoly establishment groups bringing considerable pressure to bear on certain delegates to vote no.
It was a party line vote with three exceptions. Two Republicans – Tim Hugo (R-40, Centreville) and Robert Bloxom, Jr. (R-100, Mappsville) – sided with the union over struggling families, while Democrat Delegate Steve Heretick (D-79, Portsmouth) voted for the bill.
CLICK HERE to watch the committee’s deliberations (then advance the video to 9:00 am to see Senator Stanley propose SB 172).
Compare the testimony: A broad array of accomplished, non-partisan organizations that actually do work in the field spoke in favor of the bill and worked diligently over the last two weeks to find 12 yes votes. On the other side was the Virginia Education Association, which spends considerable money every campaign on behalf of Democrat candidates, as well as the politicized School Boards Association.
The VEA, which has no actual role in Pre-K education – its members are K-12 teachers – much less in private Pre-K schools, made several false charges including the preposterous accusation that private schools discriminate in student enrollment and hiring. That came as news to two witnesses in favor of the bill: James Dyke, former Governor Doug Wilder’s education secretary, who also is African-American, as well as an African-American pastor who runs a Pre-K program in the middle of the most crime ridden sections in the city of Richmond. At its own expense, that school admits students from families who cannot afford its already modest tuition at a heavy discount. In fact, these scholarships can only be used at accredited institutions, which must already adhere to state and federal nondiscrimination laws.
Also in favor of the bill was the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, which cited the state’s own School Readiness Commission that recommends a program like this; the Virginia Catholic Conference; Jewish school educators; Chris Braunlich of the Thomas Jefferson Institute and former president of the State Board of Education; the Virginia Council for Private Education; as well as The Family Foundation. In addition, this bill won a large bipartisan vote in the Senate, including that chamber’s Democrat leader, Senator Richard Saslaw (D-35, Springfield). Yet House Democrats made it a partisan issue as a payback to its public education monopoly allies.
One of the most puzzling comments came from Delegate Vivian Watts (D-39, Annandale), who incredibly said that while she recognizes there are families who need immediate help, she could not vote for the bill because she wanted universal Pre-K coverage. She, the VEA, and those voting no basically said, “Let’s NOT help thousands of at-risk children now while we can, because it’s not government run, and instead let them slip through the cracks.”
We thank Senator Stanley and the committee members who voted yes and actively refuted the VEA’s assertions, as well as our coalition partners. Rest assured, this is an issue that's not going away. We will see to it. Parents need more choices in education, not a one-size-fits all approach.
Our parents, the StateDec. 04, 2017
Mississippi has become the latest test case for determining parental rights of same-sex couples where one of the adults has no biological relation to the child. Nationwide, disputes are raging about what the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to impose its redefinition of marriage on all 50 states now means for designations of parenthood, which prior to its opinion, rested on a paradigm that recognized children as the biological creation of a male (i.e. “father”) and female (i.e. “mother”).
But now with the Court’s 2015 same-sex marriage opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, and even more recently with the Court’s decision in Pavan v. Smith (2017) requiring both adults in a same-sex marriage to be listed on birth certificates, that long-standing paradigm has necessarily shifted. The “logical” effects are unavoidable: To dispense with biology in the marital union is to upend it in matters of parenthood too.
Aside from the most glaring harm of intentionally and officially depriving countless children of either their father or their mother for a lifetime, we should not fail to recognize that the further we go down this road of separating parental rights from biological ties, the closer we move towards enabling the State to usurp parental rights altogether. It’s not rocket science. Once having removed the most sacred, significant, and objective measure of parenthood from its nature – biological procreation – the State by default will delegate authority and recognize rights of parenthood however and to whomever it pleases.
This of course means that while some people stand to gain in this newly constructed system of parenthood, many others will lose and lose big, since a biological connection to one’s child can no longer be afforded any special weight for parenthood determinations in a post-Obergefell society.
This also means that children, and therefore all people, will increasingly become subjects of the State rather than citizens in a free society. (Historical Note: We fought a revolution to untether ourselves from that very kind of tyranny.) There is just no way around it; when marriage and parenthood are defined ultimately by the State, the State naturally assumes the ultimate and unrestricted role of parens patriae.
Welcome to the world, little one. Meet your Parents, the State. (who will assign to you your designated “official parents”)
We’ve seen this before (just elsewhere), and we will be no exception unless we decide to reverse course. What we should have learned by now is that the extent to which the government intrudes upon the dominion of the family, we lose in equal measure the opportunity to govern ourselves. And when that happens, we cease to be free.
Even if, in the end, we were all theoretically okay with that arrangement, we should still know that the State can never be an effective parent for any child. Contrary to the oft-quoted adage, it really doesn’t take a village to raise a child. It takes a mom and a dad. Knowing this to be true, as citizens in a free society (who wish to so remain), we owe it to every child and every parent to see that by all means – governmental and nongovernmental – they are ensured that opportunity.
Maybe it's freedom that's at stake?Oct. 18, 2017
There’s been a lot of banter on Virginia political blogs recently about the state of Ralph Northam’s campaign for governor and just how accurate are polls showing a statistical dead heat. Some are reporting internal grumblings among Democrats that indicate serious concerns within that party over Northam’s campaign just a few weeks out from Election Day.
A test of whether or not there is true concern can often be found in the pages of the Washington Post. And, sure enough, there have been a series of recent articles from Post reporters seeking to stir up controversy over everything from Republican candidate Ed Gillespie’s direct mail pieces to his fundraising. (Not to mention some pretty bogus polling numbers.)
Their goal: drive Northam’s base into a frenzy so they’ll actually show up to vote and discourage potential Gillespie voters who don’t want to vote for what the Post wants them to believe is a losing candidate.
But this is the Post headline that takes the cake in hyperbole:
“Future of Public Education at Stake in Virginia’s Governor Race”
Que the left wing hysteria!
Imagine that. The entire future of public education rests on our gubernatorial race.
It should surprise no one that the entire article attacks Gillespie for his support of policies that would give families more education freedom. The article proceeds with a litany of accusations about how terrible it would be if parents are provided more options than the school to which their child is assigned based on nothing more than their zip code. Everything from charter schools to Education Savings Accounts is attacked as “Bad for Kids” according to numerous quotes from those opposed to parental freedom, namely the education establishment.
The article countered with quotes from supporters of education freedom…oh wait, never mind. There are no quotes in the article from supports of education freedom. None. Anywhere. Zero.
There are, of course, lots of scare quotes about Betsy DeVos, current U.S. Secretary of Education, who has used a personal fortune to advance the cause of education freedom.
Northam makes it clear that he hates the idea of “unaccountable, private organizations” educating children. His assumption being that parents aren’t capable of holding private schools accountable, making government run schools the only option. Yet, private schools are thriving, growing, and producing students who are doing just fine, thank you, with little – and all unwanted – government involvement. All the while being held accountable by the people paying tuition. You know, sorta like a “free market.” Imagine that.
Fearing competition reveals a lack of confidence in your product. The education establishment is terrified that parents might actually get some freedom and make choices for their kids that run counter to what the establishment wants. This would mean parents are in control, not the education power brokers, and that is their real fear – and perhaps what the Post means when it desperately claims that the future of public ed is at stake.
They'll Stop at NothingJun. 22, 2017
Over the objections of thousands of Prince William County parents and students throughout the past year, not to mention a mountain of unanswered legal questions, the school board there defiantly voted (5-3) last night to push through a policy that could allow boys in Prince William County schools to use the girls' locker rooms, bathrooms, and showers, and even to be paired with females in overnight lodging situations.
And what was the Board's response to these concerns? Well, it wasn't to deny that these things would now be permissible, but instead only to dismissively declare various versions of "Oh, that'll never happen." Such a response does make you wonder if these folks really know anything at all about the experience of middle school and high school, adolescent males, teenagers generally, history, or human nature.
Or more likely, they just don't care.
The Board's action last night came after a groundswell of outrage and public pressure last September forced the Board to punt on the issue until this summer (conveniently when school would be out and parents would be less engaged with school policies, or on vacation). In that time, the Board managed to gather the cover they needed in order for a majority of them to vote to place every child in danger - ironically in the name of "safety for all." After going practically off the radar since September, the LGBT activists emerged for yesterday's meeting highly mobilized and organized, all of them showing up more than two hours early to pack the front of the room, and all of them decked out in purple. Even so, as the evening progressed, more and more opponents of the policy change arrived, ending with a crowd split about evenly.
And while the Board and proponents tried to sidestep the issue of opposite sex children in intimate settings by including “guidance” language that says bathroom and locker room policies won’t change, the reality is that the policy adopted cannot be limited in such a way.
But last night’s vote was really just part of the story. Just hours before the meeting, it was revealed that the school board chairman, Ryan Sawyers, ripping a page out of Governor Terry McAuliffe’s playbook of ignoring the law and policy, had tried to use his power and influence to manipulate who was allowed to speak during the required public comment period. Board policy states that the first ten people who sign up with the Board clerk speak, but the chair had sent text messages to the clerk demanding that the names he submitted be placed “at the top of the list.” Exposed through a Freedom of Information Act from Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas), the Board then received a letter from our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom explaining that if normal rules weren’t followed, any vote would be subject to legal challenge.
Unlike Governor McAuliffe’s Board of Health, which flippantly ignored the law when it scaled back abortion center safety standards, the Board backed off and followed normal public comment policy.
But both the willingness of the Board chair to ignore the law and the mobilization of secular progressives shows that those who wish to force their dangerous agenda on our children will stop at nothing to accomplish their goal. Public outrage doesn’t matter, the law doesn’t matter, truth doesn’t matter, science doesn’t matter.
So what’s the answer? Pro-family Virginians need to re-double our efforts to organize and mobilize. Churches need to stand up and be willing to mobilize to school board meetings across Virginia. And, people who understand that the dignity, privacy and safety of our children – not to mention DNA – matter need to run for school boards across Virginia!
If science and reality don’t affect school board members, maybe a few election losses will.