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Is Glenn Youngkin’s ‘Parents Matter’ Slogan Just A Politically Convenient Phrase?

Political candidates tell us ‘parents matter,’ but what are our representatives doing to ensure we have the final say in raising our children?

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“Parents matter” is a catchy phrase that seems to have gotten Gov. Glenn Youngkin, R-Va., elected in a tight race. Those who voted for Youngkin believe parents do matter. But has his tenure in office made it a reality so far?

On April 24, 2024, I reached out to Lisa Coons, Virginia’s superintendent of public instruction (appointed by Youngkin), regarding President Joe Biden’s absurd rewrite of Title IX. I asked Coons to join South Carolina’s Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver and Louisiana’s Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley in rejecting the unfair and arguably unconstitutional Title IX rules recently released by the U.S. Department of Education.

In my email, I explained the problems with Biden’s revision of Title IX — that conflating biological sex and gender has troubling consequences, particularly for children. Our daughters deserve private bathrooms and changing facilities. Women’s sports must be female-only for the sake of fairness. Federally mandating that our children use a person’s preferred pronouns is compelled speech and a violation of the First Amendment. And students in college who are accused of sexual assault deserve the right to due process.

On April 30, Attorney General Jason Miyares issued a press release indicating that Virginia would be joining “a six-state coalition in suing the federal Department of Education (DOE) to challenge its dangerous overhaul of Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act.”

Although I am thankful that Miyares is rightfully joining the multi-state lawsuit, I remain confused about the administration’s general lack of response to concerned parents. As of now, neither Coons, nor anyone from her office, has responded to my email. (As of publication, the Virginia Department of Education has not responded to a request for comment from The Federalist.)

Despite the silver lining in Miyares announcing action against the unjust revision of Title IX in his press release, this is not the first time parents have been otherwise ignored by the “parents matter” administration.

Symbolic Gestures from ‘Day One’

From “Day One,” Youngkin emphasized the importance of parental say in education matters. He introduced Executive Order One, which prohibited the teaching of divisive concepts in public schools. But he did not implement it in a way that made much difference.

There was an email address, for example, intended to collect information regarding public schools’ lessons on divisive concepts, such as critical race theory. I received no response to my concerns sent to that email address and, to my knowledge, neither did anyone else who submitted emails to that address.

I also wrote about divisive concepts taught to our children in Fairfax County public schools and questioned if Youngkin’s administration would act, to no avail. The Virginia governor’s executive order against divisive concepts in public education was essentially a symbolic gesture that lacked sufficient implementation mechanisms.

In Executive Order Two, the Youngkin administration said parents had the right to decide if their children wore masks to public schools. After the executive order was supposed to be in effect, my three sons — then in third, fifth, and seventh grades — went to school maskless with my written permission. Now, they have a cumulative 39 days of suspensions to show for their so-called maskless freedoms.

When I reached out to Youngkin’s administration for help, I was met with sympathy, but not action. Despite subsequent appeal to the school district, my sons’ suspensions remain on their records to this day — more than four years after lockdowns began.

Parental Rights in Excusing Children from Public Schools

In December 2023, I reached out to Coons, for the first time, about the absurd definition of “unexcused absence” in Virginia’s public schools. In the email, I explained that the Virginia Department of Education needs to change its definition, which currently grants the government power at the expense of parental rights.

It is not up to the school’s administration to determine whether it’s acceptable when a child misses school when the parent excuses him. If a parent excuses the child, whether it is for an illness or a sporting event, that should automatically make the absence excused. The reasons our children need to miss school are absolutely none of the school district’s business as long as we excuse the absence. Coons never responded.

I thought all of this might just be a Virginia issue — that perhaps with their silence, Youngkin and his appointees were simply pandering to a constituency less concerned about parental rights for future electoral gains. But last week, a father in a Republican district in Indiana, a Republican state, shared his experience with me. In his rural district, the school also has the right to decide whether his reason for excusing his children from school is acceptable to the school district’s administrators. The father was furious, just as we all should be.

The Indiana father’s experience made me wonder if we are the pawns of a panderverse. Political candidates throw us a “parents matter” bone in our busy lives. While we feel warm and fuzzy as we prepare meals and carpool our children to and from sporting events, some of us forget to follow up with what such a mantra might entail.

Parents are not pawns for political elites to take for granted. To our very core, we understand our importance in our children’s lives. What exactly are our politicians going to do to make sure that parents, and not the government, have the final say in raising our children? We want action, not just words.