On April 23, 1968, protestors took over part of Columbia University in New York City. For a week, the national news media was obsessed with the story. Then, on April 30, police broke up the “occupation,” making over 700 arrests. An article from History.com about the uprising concludes, “The 1968 protests… may be long gone, but their legacy is anything but dead.”
For many radicals in modern America—most of whom were born long after 1968—those were the good old days.
On September 27, 2022, activists tried invoking the Columbia protests’ spirit as the news media wrote about high schools in Virginia. Many articles began with language like that of WTVR, Channel 6 in Richmond:
“Students from nearly 100 schools across Virginia participated in a walkout Tuesday in opposition to the Virginia Department of Education’s proposed 2022 model policies on the treatment of transgender students in the state’s public schools.”
A journal aimed at a more politically savvy audience, The Hill, was more specific but equally strident.
“Thousands of Virginia students walked out of their classrooms Tuesday to protest Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) proposed model transgender policies that would restrict which restrooms the state’s transgender students are allowed to use and would require parents to consent to their child changing their name or pronouns at school.”
The New York Daily News, living up to its reputation, was blunt.
“Students from nearly 100 schools in Virginia are walking out of their classes Tuesday to protest new guidelines on transgender students proposed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin.”
Heroic Liberal Students versus Repressive Conservatives
Even the name of the loose organization that coordinated the protests, Pride Liberation, evokes memories of the sixties student radicalism.
Numerous photographs depicted students carrying signs. “My Identity is Not an Ideology.” “Hate is a Choice, Being Trans is Not!” “Trans Rights Now!” “Trust Trans Students.” “Protect Trans Kids.” “Trans Kids Deserve Rights!!!”
On the other hand, the articles imply Virginia’s Governor is the villain. He is violating all of the rules that the “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” crowd holds dear.
Tale of an Election
Restoring parental control of their children’s educations was on Governor Youngkin’s short list of goals when he entered the governor’s office on January 15, 2022. In his inaugural speech, he reiterated a frequent promise: “Parents should have a say in what is taught in school because in Virginia, parents have a fundamental right to make decisions with regards to their child’s upbringing, education and care. To parents I say we respect you. And we will empower you in the education of your children.”
Such sentiments helped Glenn Youngkin defeat Terry McAuliffe in 2021. Under normal circumstances, Mr. McAuliffe would have won. After all, Mr. McAuliffe is a Democrat, and Virginia has elected increasing numbers of Democrats for the last two decades. Second, Mr. McAuliffe was far better known to Virginia voters. He was the governor from 2014 to 2018, when term limits forced him to step down. No less an authority than The Washington Post opined that Mr. McAuliffe was presidential timber.
Therefore, Mr. Youngkin’s victory, even though narrow (50.6% to 48.6%), shook the liberal world.
Two issues moved voters in Mr. Youngkin’s favor. The first was then-Governor Northam’s support for one of the most pro-abortion laws in the country, which he signed on March 15, 2021. The second had to do with a young woman who was assaulted in a high school girls’ restroom. Her attacker was a young man allowed to use the girls’ facility because he identified as “gender fluid.”
Contrasting Model Policies
The document that provoked the walkout carries an innocuous title, “2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools.”
The document begins with four “Guiding Principles.”
- Parents have the right to make decisions with respect to their children.
- Schools shall serve the needs of all students.
- Schools shall partner with parents.
- Schools shall respect all students.
The new policy attempts to strike two balances.
The first is between the rights of parents and the rights of students. The second is the safety of the majority of the student body as opposed to the tiny number of “transsexuals” in the student body.
There was no balance in the previous policy, published under the title “Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools.”
That policy—handed down under former Governor Ralph Northam—was everything the leftists could desire. One of its provisions said, “Schools shall allow students to assert a name and gender pronouns that reflect their gender identity without any substantiating evidence.” In other words, Bobby could walk into the counselor’s office on Monday and ask to be called Sue, and the school would automatically comply.
The following sentence was, perhaps, even more egregious. “School staff shall, at the request of a student or parent, address the student using the asserted name and pronoun that correspond to their gender identity.” Notice that it says “student or parent.” Left unsaid but implied was that parental permission was optional. The policy plainly stated, “[S]chool staff should be prepared to support the safety and welfare of transgender students when their families are not affirming.”
A Tiny but Very Vocal Minority
The media were delighted with the walkouts. No one has compiled an authoritative figure on the number of students who walked out. Still, most media reported that the number of middle and senior high schools affected was around one hundred.
That number sounds impressive until one considers that, according to the “Great Schools” organization, Virginia has 1,018 high schools and 1,311 middle schools. So accepting the media’s number of one hundred means that slightly over four percent of schools participated in the walkout. In fairness, that percentage might be higher because some schools in rural communities and private and charter schools serve both middle and senior high students. However, even if the percentage doubles, it comes to eight percent, hardly an impressive figure.
Additionally, those who did not walk out far outnumbered the participants. Here, again, hard figures are impossible to obtain. However, one can get an idea from the fact that San Francisco-based SFGATE’s story mentioned that “more than 300 students walked out of classes” at McLean High School in a prosperous DC suburb. Again, that sounds impressive. However, the Fairfax County Public Schools’ official tally mentions that McLean High had 2,384 students in June 2022. So, only about thirteen percent of students participated.
The supporters of gender ideology want everyone to believe that the Virginia school walkout was a significant event. Their allies in the media are more than willing to help. However, a factual analysis makes it clear that Governor Youngkin did what most Virginians elected him to do. The opponents of the governor’s policy are vocal but minuscule. It is time to stop paying attention to the left.
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