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Audio: Northam Administration Secretary of Education Atif Qarni Says Youngkin “Snitch Line,” Other Policies Have “had significant negative impacts on our teachers”

On the Loudoun County school sexual assault, Qarni said "the student who did the assault was actually NOT a trans student...that's a lie in the right-wing media"

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Check out the following audio of the Northam administration’s Secretary of Education, Atif Qarni, discussing the topic of “Promoting Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in VA Schools” with “Pod Virginia.

  • Secretary Qarni discussed the “EdEquityVA,” which among other things found that “suspensions are 4.5x more likely to involve Black students than White students,” and that “More than half of Virginia school divisions have moderate or high disproportionality among Black student suspensions.” Secretary Qarni also talked about some of the measures the Northam administration took to address this disproportionality (e.g., “guardrails about how many days a student could be suspended,” investment in school counselors, working with students who had suffered trauma…).
  • On equity for transgender students, Secretary Qarni said, “I don’t believe that we are doing enough to make sure our schools are a full and welcoming environment.” Having said that, Qarni noted that “schools are generally speaking the safest place for students compared to other external situations,”  but “there’s still a significant amount of bullying…where it does have an adverse impact on children.” In the Northam administration, there was model policy “to look at how we can better accommodate trans students.
  • Secretary Qarni commented on the Loudoun County school sexual assault case, saying that: “the student who did the assault was actually NOT a trans student; in the media – Fox News and others – were saying that this was a trans student who sneaked into a girl’s bathroom and assaulted another child. That, I was clearly told is inaccurate; that’s a lie in the right-wing media. Now, the other things about whether the student was dressed up as a female student, pretending to be a female and sneaking in, that’s speculative, that I cannot verify…I do want to emphasize that there’s a bigger problem here…It’s a really unfortunate event where the school division did drop the ball and a student got assault, whether that’s a trans student or not; one student assaulted another student, it’s a significant problem…We have to prioritize safety of our children and it’s unacceptable that this occurred.”
  • Secretary Qarni added that what “bothers me the most” about the Loudoun County bathroom situation is “how is it…these two students had a relationship, and how is it that they were allowed to leave the classroom for so long and carry on with this relationship and unfortunately it resulted in a significant assault, but why was that happening in the first place?”
  • Also, Secretary Qarni argued, regarding the Loudoun County assault story: “the right-wing media exploited the situation and exploited the hurt of the specific student that was assaulted and manipulated and manufactured a false narrative, which is really unfortunate.
  • On “Critical Race Theory,” Secretary Qarni said the concept is NOT in the curriculum of Virginia public schools. “Critical [Race] Theory, in general, has been around and has been a concept for a while, which basically states that there are groups in  power and there are marginalized groups that do not have power…there’s critical gender theory, there’s critical queer theory, there’s critical race theory. What unfortunately has happened in this manufacturing of critical race theory ‘crisis’ is that everything has been lumped…into one by the right-wing media to really manufacture this ‘crisis’. In my personal observation, talking to numerous educators across the state and…nationally, I think there is a broad understanding that we have significant systemic inequities and systemic racism is real…I’m not saying that every single educator believes that inherently our nation is racist; that’s being framed in the right-wing media. But I can tell you that educators are concerned…Clearly a problem does exist.”
  • How would Qarni, who ran for the House of Delegates and State Senate himself, like to hear Democratic political candidates respond on the campaign trail regarding “Critical Race Theory?” Qarni: “I think we do need to speak very clear[ly] and say look, there are patterns in history that repeat…I do feel that this manufactured crisis of ‘Critical Race Theory’ is just like the ‘Massive Resistance’ movement which started in Virginia. And I think the Democratic candidates politically need to realize that and they need to understand our history and…what worked in the past to counter this vitriol and hateful rhetoric and be very very proactive in addressing this. Because, right now, I just feel like there isn’t a really thorough understand amongst even Democrats of how to counter the negative rhetoric.
  • On Youngkin’s Executive Order #1, Qarni said “I can’t read Gov. Youngkin’s mind…Is it theatrics? Is it an attempt to use this to further his political career? It could be. It’s all speculative. Or is it a true intention, does he truly believe that this is a significant issue that he wants to tackle? Or it could be to appease people who got him elected…and who donated to his campaign? It could be multiple reasons, or it could be just one reason or none of the above, we just don’t know.”
  • As for the impact of Executive Order #1, combined with the “snitch line” Youngkin created, Qarni said “it has created a suffocating environment for numerous educators, especially  who teach social studies and history, who have reached out to me expressing their frustrations that they really are worried about how they teach, because they feel like they have to  constantly watch what they say, and that they will be reported and that their jobs will come in jeopardy and they’ll get in trouble. So this has definitely has had significant negative impacts on our teachers.”

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