FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 15, 2021
Contact: Adele McClure, Executive Director
Phone: (804) 876-0221
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Supports Greater Equity in Education & Condemns the Racist Tropes Repeated by Senators Petersen & Saslaw to defeat Delegate Tyler’s Governor’s Schools Legislation
Richmond, VA—The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) condemns the age-old racist tropes that were perpetuated in the remarks by Senator Petersen (D-34th, Fairfax) and Senator Saslaw (D-35th, Fairfax) last month during a Virginia Senate Education Committee meeting while discussing Delegate Roslyn Tyler’s (D-75th, Sussex) HB 2305.
Time and time again we find ourselves stonewalled when pushing for equity and justice to correct the wrongs of the past 400+ years and continually having to justify our existence and participation in society.
There exists a long history of narratives that pit minority communities against one another, that falsely portray lifting systemic barriers from one community as a detriment to the progress of another community. Removing the chains off of one community does not add chains to another. When we remove systemic barriers that were designed to keep certain people out and when we open the doors of equitable opportunity for the many talented youth who have been excluded for years, then everyone, all communities, benefit.
HB 2305 was drafted as a direct response to efforts by students at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, the Maggie L. Walker Governor's School, and Governor’s Schools across the Commonwealth to increase diversity in their schools. Currently, there is no clear statistic on the number of African American students who attend Thomas Jefferson High School. This is because the number is so low (less than 10 students) that the enrollment data report for the Class of 2024 listed the number as “N/A.” The number of Black students and Latinx students respectively have remained in the single digits since the early 2000s. At the Maggie L. Walker Governor's School, Black and Latinx students respectively have also been significantly underrepresented. In light of these disparities, many families expressed to the bill’s work group overwhelming support for the legislation and spoke of the need for increased diversity. Inequities in educational opportunities begin at an early age.
Barriers within our education system exist as early as nursery school and elementary school. These barriers prevent many otherwise talented and qualified children from ever getting close to the pathway towards attending Virginia Governor’s Schools. We must fervently and consistently reject any suggestion that these educational inequities -- particularly for Black, Latinx, and low-income students -- are the result of inherent intellectual inferiority or a lack of hard work. These false narratives must finally be put to an end.
The reality is that the status quo prevents and excludes Black and Latinx students from effectively accessing equitable admission to Virginia’s Governor’s Schools. HB 2305 was filed to finally address these systemic barriers by requiring the Virginia Board of Education to issue guidance on the governance of academic year Governor’s Schools, including guidance on communication efforts, outreach practices, and admissions policies. The bill would have also required the Board to issue guidelines on diversity, equity, and inclusion training.
The members of the VLBC thank advocates, superintendents, the Virginia Board of Education, state senators, state delegates, student alumni, and Governor’s school administrators for serving on the task force and working on HB 2305. The VLBC is disappointed that Del. Tyler’s bill to address the lack of inclusion and diversity at the Governor’s Schools died in committee last month following a derogatory debate.
The VLBC uplifts the statements of and stands with the Virginia NAACP, Virginia Council of Muslim Organizations, the Asian & Latino Solidarity Alliance, The Virginia Grassroots Coalition, Thomas Jefferson High School Students and Alumni, and the many others who support equity in education and who condemned the remarks of Senator Petersen and Senator Saslaw.
We look forward to continuing to work to pursue long overdue change to expand access to educational opportunities where Black, Latinx, undocumented, and low-income students are historically excluded. And we will continue to push for greater equity, inclusion, and justice for all as we continue to work to correct the injustices of the past.
As such the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus:
- Will continue to partner with the Governor’s Administration to ensure that the guidelines in Delegate Tyler’s legislation are developed and issued through the Virginia Board of Education;
- Will work beyond the guidelines to address the fragmented structure of gifted programs in Virginia and revamp gifted regulations to close the opportunity gaps for gifted, historically excluded students. This will give these students a chance to engage in opportunities that the Commonwealth’s education system has to offer; and
- Will continue to work to address modern-day segregation. Research and findings show that Virginia schools are more segregated now than they have been in the last 15 years. As a Commonwealth, we must acknowledge and recognize what modern-day school segregation looks like and take proactive measures to address and remedy this.
As Senate President Pro Tempore and Education and Health Chair Senator L. Louise Lucas (D-18th, Portsmouth) stated: we will overcome one day.
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) is made up of 23 members in the Virginia General Assembly. VLBC is committed to improving the economic, educational, political, and social conditions of African Americans and underrepresented groups in Virginia. A vital part of VLBC’s mission is to raise the consciousness of other groups to the contributions made by African Americans to the Commonwealth and the Nation.