Parental Rights Resolution adopted by Southampton County Board of Supervisors

Published 12:30 pm Friday, October 14, 2022

The Southampton County Board of Supervisors voted 5-1 on Sept. 27 to adopt the Resolution in Support of Parental Rights, which some supervisors described as mirroring, in brief form, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s 2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity and Respect for all Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools.

These model policies substantively revise those adopted under Gov. Ralph Northam and emphasize parental rights and categorization by sex rather than gender identity.

Under the Guiding Principles section of Youngkin’s model policies, it states that parents “have the right to make decisions with respect to their children” and that schools “shall respect parents’ values and beliefs.”

Later in the same section, it states, “Schools shall defer to parents to make the best decisions with respect to their children: Parents are in the best position to work with their children and, where appropriate, their children’s health care providers to determine (a) what names, nicknames, and/or pronouns, if any, shall be used for their child by teachers and school staff while their child is at school, (b) whether their child engages in any counseling or social transition at school that encourages a gender that differs from their child’s sex, or (c) whether their child expresses a gender that differs with their child’s sex while at school.”

In Appendix 1, the new model policies state, “Students shall use bathrooms that correspond to his or her sex, except to the extent that federal law otherwise requires. See Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board, 972 F.3d 586 (2020).”

The next subpoint states, “Single-user bathrooms and facilities should be made available in accessible areas and provided with appropriate signage, indicating accessibility for all students.”

The final paragraph of the new policies addresses athletics: “For any athletic program or activity that is separated by sex, the appropriate participation of students shall be determined by sex. [School Division] shall provide reasonable modifications to this policy only to the extent required by federal law.”

Alan W. Edwards

Jerusalem District Supervisor and Board Chair Dr. Alan W. Edwards introduced the topic of the Resolution in Support of Parental Rights by reminding the board that it had looked at a version of the resolution last fall.

“Now, I’ve had a number of people call me about bringing this up again when school started and everybody found out there were no more honors courses in the school,” he said. “The honors program has been scrapped.”

He described the move as a handicap to students who want to go on to further education after high school. 

“They need some of these courses, and the people who contacted me said that they had contacted their school board representatives and gone to the school board meetings and nobody answers any questions,” Edwards said. “So that’s the reason that I requested (the resolution) be put back on (the agenda).”

He then established his view of the stakes involved that are directly relevant to the Board of Supervisors.

“People have to realize that the quality of our schools determines what industries and what businesses we have come into this county,” he said. “I’ve been on the planning commission for 32 years, and I can tell you when somebody comes in here, that’s the first thing they ask: ‘How are the schools?’ They’re not coming in here with their employees and having them disgruntled because they don’t like the schools. So this is very important.”

Capron District Supervisor and Board Vice Chair William Hart Gillette read the resolution aloud at the meeting, and it is included in its entirety at the end of this article.

Describing the resolution after Gillette finished reading it, Edwards said, “This is basically what our governor has put forth. I don’t personally see anything in here that’s offending anybody except, look, we expect you to stick to the law, and parents need to own the children. The school doesn’t own the children.”

Chief Walt “Red Hawk” Brown was allowed to speak briefly, and he shared his perspective on the resolution as a parent of fourth-grade and fifth-grade students at Meherrin Elementary School, noting that the leadership there has always communicated with him.

Newsoms District Supervisor Lynda T. Updike said, “I get a lot of phone calls from parents and teachers too, and the problems don’t seem to be with the elementary schools, they’re with the middle school and the high school.”

Edwards agreed.

Carl J. Faison

Boykins District Supervisor Carl J. Faison said, “Right now, I’m really concerned about the relationships between the school board and the Board of Supervisors.”

He noted that he works with young people, and he has been very satisfied with the education they and his own children received from Southampton County Public Schools.

“I think the school did a great job and has been doing a great job, and I really don’t think this (resolution) is necessary,” he said. “We have enough problems now between the school board and the Board of Supervisors, and I think this resolution that we’re making will exacerbate that.”

He said the two boards do need to work things out, but he thinks they have to do so in such a way that they are communicating with each other.

“Now I’ve heard over and over again how we have tried to communicate with them and all of this, but I think that they feel that they’re picked on, and so then I hope there’s some way that we can come to some resolutions of any problems that we see,” he said. “But this (resolution) appears to me to be a personal attack by one board on another, and I don’t think that’s necessary.

“Sure we need to work things out, but we don’t need to set up a situation where one feels as though the other is against them and picking on them and all of that,” he added. “Let’s work out the problem without putting this in there, because I do think there are some generalities in here and some presumptions in here that aren’t necessarily backed up by absolute facts. So I would rather not have this resolution.”

Edwards countered by saying that the resolution simply reflects state policy that the school system is bound to.

“We’re not taking sides,” he said. “We’re saying we support this policy.

“And it’s my opinion from going through all this, there have to be some major changes in our school system — and it’s not a good school system,” he said, disagreeing with Faison’s assessment. “If you look, it’s down the line, and it’s getting worse every year. They’re down 79 teachers in our system, and we have interviewed some of them, Mr. Faison, and the reason they’re quitting is working conditions.

“And this is not going to change until this (resolution) gets through and the public, social media and we take a stand,” he added, “because if we don’t, we’re not going to get industry and people to come to this county.”

To illustrate his concerns, Faison read the fourth paragraph of the resolution: “Whereas, the Southampton County Board of Supervisors is very much aware of the concerns of parents, students and taxpayers that the administration of the Southampton County Public Schools has ignored the fundamental rights of parents to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education and care of their children…”

“Now what is that based on?” Faison asked.

“They got rid of the honors courses this year, and nobody knew about it,” Edwards said. “Kids went back their first day, and there were no honors courses.”

“Why were they gotten rid of?” Faison asked.

“There was no explanation,” Edwards said. “Parents asked. They’re calling me, they’re calling other people on this board, ‘Why’d it happen?’ There’s no answer. At the school board, if you go to those meetings, they asked. There’s no answer.”

The Southampton County School Board voted at its Sept. 12 meeting to approve an amended Local Plan for the Education of the Gifted that removed the word “honors” from the plan.

Kelli Gillette

SCPS Director of Curriculum and Instruction Kelli Gillette presented the proposed amendment to the board.

“Last year in October, you reviewed and approved the Gifted Local Plan for our division,” she said to board members. “It is a plan that’s updated every five years, and this year I’m asking for an amendment due to a teacher shortage; we’re asking that the word ‘honors’ be removed from the Gifted Local Plan.

“I do want to say that when we’re asked ‘Do we have enough teachers?’ when we talk about the honors classes, if we were able to offer one honors class for each grade level, we have so many kids taking different courses that they couldn’t all possibly be in the same honors class,” she continued. “So due to the teacher shortage, we’re asking that you remove the word ‘honors’ from our Gifted Local Plan at this time.”

Edwards reiterated his perspective that the Southampton County school system is manifesting decline every year.

“This board has, I think, a moral right to stand up and say that’s what we believe,” he said. “I truly believe it, I’ve seen it. There’s no communications. They’re not going to change. All this thing about establishing a relationship with them and doing this and doing that is not going to work; it has not worked for years. And until there’s some changes in that administration out there —”

Faison interjected, “Well you know, I’ve been on this board now for 20-some years, and it’s only recently that we are developing these problems between the school board and the Board of Supervisors. We’ve had an existing relationship that was workable and all of this, and everything went well, and now we’re having these problems.”

Edwards said the workable relationship existed when the school system had a different administration. He noted that superintendents in the past came to the Board of Supervisors to cite the amount of money they had left over in their budget. He recalled one of them that asked to keep a certain amount, listing the things they wanted to do with it.

“That’s not happening anymore,” Edwards said. “There’s no transparency there. If we want some information, we have to file a (Freedom of Information Act request), and some of us have spent our own money trying to get information out of them; we don’t get it. So you’ve got to look at the facts. Go to the school board meetings, talk to some of these parents.”

Edwards noted that the county gives 60% of its budget to the school system every year.

“This board has a moral obligation to take a stand somewhere, draw a line in the sand, and say, ‘Look, if this isn’t right, then you change,’” he said.

Ash Cutchins, who was in attendance at the Board of Supervisors meeting, was granted permission to speak, and he said, “Mr. Faison, you said you’ve been on the board 20 years or so, and I’ve been coming to meetings here for at least 20 years, a little bit more, and it’s only been in the last couple of years that I’ve heard teachers come up here and complain.”

Cutchins recalled how several teachers from Southampton Middle School came to the supervisors to complain about the administration, and he also highlighted an English as a Second Language teacher who spoke out as well.

He urged Faison to think about those things and the fact that his own children are out of school now and were therefore educated in a past version of the school system.

Franklin District Supervisor Robert T. White said he knows of a teacher and also a staff member who was in charge of nutrition for the whole Southampton County school system that left recently.

“Both of them have left within the last 12 months because of ‘atmosphere’ is what they told me,” he said. “They went to Isle of Wight and Suffolk, so we’re losing our good people to other school systems. They live in the county, and they’re driving miles to work every day because of the situation in this school system.”

Gillette joined Updike in sharing concern about fights happening at school.

“Up until recently, I’ve never seen fights at a football game, and there’ve been two this year,” he said. “So that’s a problem, and it’s serious. Things could have gone south real quick last week, and I’m sure that’ll be reviewed, I guess, by the Virginia High School League, but that’s not a good mark on our system.”

Gillette and Edwards also shared another concern with the system related to a notable hire.

“I talked to two of the school board members earlier this year,” Edwards said. “They did hire — and they can’t give me the reason what for — the chairman of the Richmond City School Board at $95,000 a year. I asked them what they hired her for; they didn’t know. I asked, ‘We’ll get back with you,’ was the response I got. I haven’t heard a thing.”

“Could it be that those funds could have been better spent on honors programs?” Gillette said. “I’m just saying.”

The board’s vote on the resolution followed shortly thereafter, and Faison cast the lone dissenting vote.

THE RESOLUTION IN ITS ENTIRETY

The adopted Resolution in Support of Parental Rights reads as follows:

“Whereas, the Southampton County Board of Supervisors respectfully submits that Section 1-240.1 of the 1950 Code of Virginia, as amended, entitled the ‘Rights of Parents’ emphatically states, ‘A parent has a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education and care of the parent’s child’; and

“Whereas, the Southampton County Board of Supervisors believes that all academic success begins by embracing these fundamental rights in our educational institutions; and

“Whereas, one of the missions of the Southampton County Public Schools is to fost and encourage effective partnerships with families and our community and promote positive relationships between and among staff, students and families; and

“Whereas, the Southampton County Board of Supervisors is very much aware of the concerns of parents, students and taxpayers that the administration of the Southampton County Public Schools has ignored the fundamental rights of parents to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education and care of their children; and

“Whereas, the Southampton County Board of Supervisors believes that education must focus on academic subjects and without exception to not include the promulgation of social experiments and/or opinions not based on facts; and

“Whereas, the Southampton County Board of Supervisors believes that any parent or taxpayer has the right to see and evaluate all surveys, data collection and psychological profiling before they are administered to Southampton County students and that parents should have the right to opt out of any or all such testing participation in and/or data collection; and

“Whereas, the Southampton County Board of Supervisors believes that teaching social skills to help students make positive behavior choices and embrace a strong work ethic to develop into good citizens is desired and must be one of the missions of the Southampton County Public Schools and teaching ideology that sets standards about what a child should think and feel is emotional indoctrination and must stop; and

“Whereas, the beginning of the problem of education has instituted mandatory ‘cultural competency’ training and evaluation of all employees within its educational system which has been defined as an intellectual theory that is not supported by facts, that seeks to teach ‘that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice but collectively and systematically embodied in America’s legal system, institutions and policies’; and

“Whereas, cultural competency training promotes the teaching of ideologies that likely contradict the social, moral and religious beliefs of the parent’s child in direct violation of Section 1-240.1 of the 1950 Code of Virginia, as amended; and

“Whereas, the Southampton County Board of Supervisors is fundamentally opposed to the offering of taxpayer’s dollars to Southampton County Public Schools if it will not adhere to Section 1-240.1 of said code and all of its practices.

“Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Southampton County Board of Supervisors hereby places the Southampton County Public Schools on notice and demands that the Southampton County Public Schools cease its violation of the law of this commonwealth and adhere to Section 1-240.1 of the code and all of its practices; and

“Be it further resolved, that the Southampton County Public Schools, boards, administration and employees do everything in their power to restore the traditional partnership between teachers, students and parents by directly communicating with parents and students before teaching any subject that does not address the Southampton County Public Schools objectives which, inter alia, is to teach every student to achieve their highest academic potential. It is counter to the Southampton County Public Schools mission to design educational experiences that allow students to make contributions as productive citizens if the Southampton County Public Schools teachings include personal bias or personal political opinions or indoctrination. The Southampton County Public Schools will not achieve its mission by including conversation, lesson plans, literature, personal stories or other means to teach students to identify their agenda, denounce their American culture and patriotism, apologize for their race or religion, or to have teachers encourage their students to keep secrets from their parents.”