Since being back in school for the first time since March 2020, high schools all around the country have faced many new challenges. Being away from school for over a year has brought attention to all the conflicts and hardships faced in public high schools not only in Virginia, but many other states.

Freeman sexual assault reports 

Two students currently enrolled at Douglas S. Freeman High school, reported being sexually assaulted on school grounds. This was presumed to take place just before 9 a.m. on Sept. 30th in the student parking lots. Following the incident, many parents and family members of Freeman students urged more supervision upon their arrival to school. 

Not only did this affect Freeman students, but also many schools around Henrico County. Security before, during, and after school hours has been increased to prevent similar issues.  As a result of the issue, an 18 year old male was arrested in his home with charges of assault, sexual battery, and trespassing. 

Alexandria School Resource Officers 

Following a shift in culture and issues with police brutality, authority in schools is starting to be questioned around the country.

After many heated debates in Alexandria City Schools, School Resource Officers (SRO’s) in all high schools had been removed from the buildings. Select faculty and many concerned parents decided that SRO’s were a waste of funding, and potentially a safety concern in high schools. Funding taken from SRO’s were reallocated to mental health programs within the Alexandria County school district.

Following the removal of SRO’s, students were found in possession of firearms, conflicts  were rising, and potentially dangerous self defense mechanisms were being put to use. Thankfully, no students were harmed and no damage was done, but SRO’s were quickly reinstated in schools for the safety and security of everyone in the building. 

Fairfax county vaccinations for sports 

Along with cultural and safety issues, COVID-19 has affected schools by a long shot. 

Fairfax County Schools made the decision to require all student athletes to show proof of vaccination before being allowed to participate in the upcoming winter sports season, or any activity that requires a physical. 

Many parents and family members are upset by the new requirements and have made the decision to sit their athletes out for the season. The school board claims it to be an act of safety for student athletes throughout the county. 

The school board hopes that proof of vaccination will limit the absence of players for COVID-19 reasons. Considering health and religious aspects of the issue, not everyone is fully able to be vaccinated which presents schools with a bigger issue. Will teams have enough players this season? 

As a result of some students not eligible for the vaccine, the Fairfax County School Board is working to outline some exceptions for their athletes. 

Henrico County recently made the decision to require all winter sports athletes to show proof of vaccination prior to participating. If a student-athlete is not vaccinated , they will participate in weekly COVID-19 tests to partake this season. Parents must fill out a one-time consent form prior to testing.

The testing will be at no cost to families and will be done by the Virginia Department of Health. If a student is fully vaccinated, they may still participate in testing if they wish. The student will still need to fill out a one-time consent form. 

Maggie Walker admissions test

Maggie Walker Governor’s School in Richmond made the unanimous decision to remove the achievement portion of their two-part admissions test. Maggie Walker’s school board came to a consensus that the admissions tests were being seen as barriers for students of color and those economically disadvantaged. 

A Richmond Times Dispatch study shows white applicants had been accepted almost 4 times more than students of color over the past 2 decades. Just about 20% of students in Richmond City Schools are white, but at Maggie Walker it’s over 90%. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maggie Walker waived the admissions test, but still gave no indication of an attempt at creating more diversity. 

Along with the attempt at making the school more diverse, this section of the test doesn’t give the board an idea of how well the students will do at the school. Bob Lowerre, director of Maggie Walker, told Richmond Times Dispatch that the part of the test being removed is simply a 10th grade history test. He believes it’s unnecessary if their admissions test consists of material they will eventually cover at the school. 

Texas long hair ban on males

Outside of Virginia, The Texas County school district suspended a 9 year old boy for a month as punishment for having long hair. This was the beginning of a county wide lawsuit led by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas (ACLU). 

Following the suspension of the elementary student, six males and one non-binary student, ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade, were punished. According to the school board, they were in violation of the dress code which states hair on males cannot go over their eyes, past the bottom of their ears, or past the bottom of a dress shirt collar. 

Every student punished reported having long hair because of cultural or gender oriented reasons. This issue quickly turned from “opposing community morals” to gender injustice. The ACLU went to trial on behalf of Texas students and argued it imposed immense, and irreparable harm, solely because of the student’s gender. This school year has been unlike any other and we’re just getting started. 

Education in results of the 2021 Gubernatorial race. 

In January of 2022, Virginia will inaugurate Glenn Youngkin as the 74th governor of Virginia. 

Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, was elected Virginia’s new governor on Tuesday Nov. 2, beating Democrat Terry McAuliffe in a very close race. One of Youngkin’s main topics of discussion was education, including funding, censorship, and parental involvement in school curriculum.  Glenn Youngkin repeated that parents have a fundamental right to have more input  in their children’s education. He also pledged to ban Critical Race Theory, a law theory which states that almost everything in American history can be traced back to race. While Critical Race Theory is not currently taught in any Virginia school, Youngkin believes banning it will prevent possible discrimination and/or inequality. 

While Governor from 2014-2018, Virginia’s democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, vetoed a bill that would have required localities to provide an alternate selection of assigned reading materials for books deemed “sexually explicit.” The issue of school censorship arose over the prize-winning novel Beloved by Toni Morrison. McAuliffe stated in a televised debate, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” 

Experts believe this issue swung votes from Democrats to Republicans. Republicans have new strategies we will see in the upcoming Jan. session of the General Assembly

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