VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - On a day when many students have now officially returned to school, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said in no uncertain terms that he’s going to continue pushing for parents to have a bigger say in how public schools are run.
The governor delivered remarks while in Virginia Beach Monday, saying he wanted to use the start of the new school year to highlight what he calls "priority issues" for families — chief among them his administration’s model policies — while also driving home the message that "parents matter."
The model policies have caused controversy in recent weeks, with several northern Virginia school districts saying they will not adhere to them.
Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax and Prince William counties have announced that they will follow their own policies on sexual orientation and gender identity which they say protect students in compliance with federal law.
Under the new guidelines, students are required to use bathrooms and other private facilities that match their biological sex — not gender identity — unless it’s required by federal law.
Students also have to receive parental permission to be recognized by another name or gender.
Last week, Virginia’s attorney general issued a ruling that the model policy requiring parental notification does follow the law and the governor says the new policies empower parents and prohibit discrimination.
"The model policies that we released back in July, and the model policies were written to ensure the dignity, the privacy and respect of every child and every parent in our schools in the commonwealth of Virginia," Youngkin said.
Youngkin was elected in 2021 after campaigning heavily on issues like stopping the critical race theory curriculum, bathroom access for transgender students and investigating school safety in districts like Loudoun County.
But the governor pivoted somewhat in his latest remarks, saying his focus is on parental input, the mental health effect of social media on students and the growing fentanyl crisis that kills five Virginians every day.
"What we heard back from so many of the high school students was that they did not know. They didn’t know that Percocet that they borrowed from a friend because they had a sore knee after a sporting event could kill them because it’s being laced with fentanyl," Youngkin said.
As for who should have more say in how schools are run — parents or school administrators — some Arlington residents told FOX 5 that parents should have a say but schools are in charge.
"There’s a role to play getting kids and young people socialized into the world that is not just up to parents," one person told FOX 5.
"I’m an educator, so I feel like teachers should have some say in the classroom, but in terms of what kind of say parents have I think it depends from topic to topic," another said.
This all comes just weeks from crucial state legislative elections with control of the general assembly at stake in November.