Virginia drafts new policy for teaching history in schools

More backlash has come out pertaining to the proposed teachings of certain parts of American history, including Martin Luther King Jr Day and Juneteenth, in Virginia schools. 

On Thursday night, the Virginia Board of Education had its first review of the Youngkin Administration’s Standards of Learning, which cut the original document from the previous administration down from 400 to 53 pages.

Ultimately, the board tabled the conversation until after the new year.

In a meeting that lasted nearly nine hours, the Virginia Board of Education voted unanimously to reschedule the first review of new standards for teaching history and social science.

"What I know is I have four hours of public comment and a thousand letters," Daniel Gecker, president of Virginia’s Board of Education said at the meeting.

Virginia state law requires standards of learning for all subjects to be reevaluated every seven years, but this year’s review has been met with widespread backlash.

"I don’t see how we move forward to the public with the November document as a product of this board and say that we’ve maintained faith with the public," Gecker added.

RELATED: Virginia's history learning standards remain under review

Revisions to the 2022 standards by the Youngkin Administration included new teachings on hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, references to Japanese internment camps, and the history of the first African American to serve in Congress.

It initially did not include lessons on Martin Luther King Jr., Day, and Juneteenth in elementary school, and lessons on lynching were drafted to not start until sixth grade.

"I have a first-grader and since we get off on MLK’s birthday we talked about the celebration of him and what he does, and she talked about it in class and I think age-appropriate education is such a vital thing," said Jessica Berg, a parent and teacher in Loudoun County.

RELATED: Virginia's new standards for teaching history in schools criticized

The department said the previous version inadvertently omitted those federal holidays but has since been revised.

Nonetheless, critics say overall the standards are missing key parts of our nation’s history.

"You’re essentially keeping children in the dark, and you’re not giving students the ability to see representation of themselves in leaders and important figures in history until that age and that just really does a disservice to them," Berg added.

A spokeswoman for Youngkin says the new standards are being molded to ensure students learn all our history — the good and the bad — by utilizing sources across the Commonwealth.

The standards being discussed are only a draft and overview, not the final framework.

That version will be released in August 2023. Until then, there will be public hearings for people to weigh in, and several changes could come about.

The full statement from Macaulay Porter, spokeswoman for Governor Glenn Youngkin’s Office is below:

"The August 2022 draft policies developed under the previous Administration had significant errors in their standards, including omitting key historical references to hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, and Sen. Hiram Revels of Mississippi, the first African American to serve in Congress, and more, which have now been incorporated into the new draft. Despite various claims to the contrary, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is included in the revised standards and, in fact, they have expanded the depth of content required on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Through public comment, review, and input from Virginians, state and national historians, and various community organizations since January 2021, the draft standards are being molded to ensure our students learn all our history - the good and the bad. The draft history standards are in the initial stages of the State Board of Education's review process and will continue to undergo revisions informed by public engagement sessions and Board hearings. This process is focused on ensuring Virginia has the best history standards and curriculum for our students."