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Are City Council Members Promoting The Sexualization Of Children in County Elementary Schools?

The interrelated issues of educational quality, safety, mental health, and the sexualization of children have been front and center lately. The issue made Virginia and then national headlines when gubernatorial challenger and underdog Glenn Youngkin (R) claimed in a debate, “I believe parents should be in charge of their kids’ education.” 

In what may be listed under the rubric of “famous last words,” then-front runner Terry McAuliffe (D) fired back: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” With hindsight, we now know that exchange doomed McAuliffe’s political ambitions and launched Youngkin, Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares into the top three state-wide offices in November 2021.

But the tug-of-war regarding parental rights and what is taught in schools is ongoing.

As posted here, the General Assembly passed a bill that would require parents be notified when sexually-explicit material was assigned to their child in school, but in 2017 then Governor McAuliffe vetoed it.

On February 27, 2023, The Roanoke Star reported here how State Senator John Edwards (D-Roanoke) helped kill “Sage’s Law,” a bill designed to protect children from sex trafficking and gender mutilation.

On March 3, The Roanoke Star reported here that Edwards also helped kill a bill that would have required the cataloging of visual depictions of graphic sexual content available in school libraries. Both bills passed the GOP-led House of Delegates and would have been signed into law by Governor Youngkin, but died in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Sen. Edwards has a long record as a foe of parental rights, but last February he announced his intention no longer to seek re-election. Now Edwards’ former Chief of Staff, Luke Priddy, has declared his desire to carry on Sen. Edward’s “legacy.”

On May 26, a small group of protestors gathered outside Glen Cove Elementary School in Roanoke County. (The actual size of the crowd is disputed.) Reportedly, they were objecting to the removal of some homosexual / transgender-related imagery and messages from public spaces in the school as well as the resignation of several teachers.

However, since employment is a personnel issue, it is unclear why those teachers resigned. Moreover, high staff turnover has long been endemic in government-run schools.

Although the gathering involved Roanoke County schools, staff, children and parents, two individuals present were City Council members Joe Cobb and Luke Priddy. Both are Democrats and open homosexuals. Priddy has attracted attention when, a mere seven weeks after being sworn into his new seat on City Council, he suddenly announced he is already running for a higher office, state senate.

The sight of two Roanoke City Council members protesting outside a Roanoke County school and seemingly telling the County how to run its school system sparks some questions.

In keeping with the mission of The Roanoke Star to promote the diffusion of knowledge and an informed community, the following questions were submitted to both Cobb and Priddy. No responses have been received as of publication time.

Cobb’s silence is notable in that in a recent interview with WDBJ-7, he claimed: what “we want to communicate loudly and clearly is that Roanoke is a progressive, inclusive, welcoming city. We say that, we practice it, we believe it. But in order to live out that practice, we need to make sure that is real in every way.”

The questions posed to both Council members are paraphrased below:

  1. Regarding the rally at Glen Cove Elementary School – since it involves the education of children, please inform our readers about your credentials in the field of education. Specifically, have you been a classroom teacher before and if so for how long? Did you study education in college or are you a licensed teacher?
  2. Roanoke City struggles with many pathologies seen in larger cities: Roanoke has been named the #2 crime capital of Virginia, homelessness, beggars, high taxes and fees, (next to Salem, the highest in the region), stagnant population level, shoplifting, etc. How would you respond if a Roanoke City resident were to ask something along the lines of, “Since you were voted into office by City voters, our taxes pay your Council salary, and Roanoke City already has many current challenges, why are you focusing on County issues instead of our own? Doesn’t the City have enough problems to keep you occupied?”
  3. How would you respond if a resident of Roanoke County, (or Salem, or another locality) were to ask/say something along the lines of, “With all the problems Roanoke City is facing, why are you getting involved in our business? If we wanted to have officials with your mindset, wouldn’t Roanoke County have a Democrat-led Board? Or wouldn’t we just move into the City?”
  4. Do you think elementary school is an appropriate age to discuss sexual orientation and sex in general? If so, at what grade levels?
  5. Overall, who do you think is most responsible for teaching children about sex and morals? Parents or the government?
  6. Question for Priddy: In your interview with WDBJ-7, you stated: “I know that a school teacher growing up saved my life by being positive and affirming for me.” What grade/s were you in when you had that encounter?

One of the most key questions any educator must ask before designing a lesson is, “Is this material age / developmentally appropriate for my students?” For example, a holocaust unit in high school is fitting and some would say essential. However, such content for pre-school would be wildly inappropriate.

WDBJ-7 quoted Roanoke County School Superintendent Dr. Ken Nicely on the Glen Cove situation. He responded: “While we cannot comment on the specifics of a personnel matter, we do want to affirm that Roanoke County Public Schools’ focus is on our students and their learning and wellbeing. Our baseline belief is that our schools must be safe and caring places for all students, where they can learn free of disruption.”

Serwan Zangana, a native of Iraqi-Kurdistan and served US forces as a translator during Operation Iraqi Freedom, is now a naturalized US citizen and regular columnist for The Roanoke Star.  When asked about this situation he wrote:

“As a parent and a resident of Roanoke City, I am unhappy and worried about the way the school system is defining “diversity.” The school system and the City Council members are aligning together to push LGBT into the schools under the name of diversity. They are displaying rainbow flags in most of the Roanoke City schools, which is obviously the symbol of LGBT. As children are being exposed to LGBT materials and subjects, this puts parents in a situation to explain to children certain subjects regarding sexual relationships that are too soon for them to know. City Council members Cobb and Priddy are a negative influence among the schools’ children. I believe exposing and talking about sexualized subjects, including LGBT, is a violation of childhoods.”

The Roanoke Valley is a beloved community to those who live here. Still, politically and culturally, the contrast between the City and County continues to grow. The five-member County Board of Supervisors is all GOP, while the seven-member City Council has six Democrats and one Independent.

In the 1980 census, Roanoke City had 100,220 residents while the county had less than three-fourths that, 72,945. The 2020 census, however, shows that people can “vote with their feet.” Roanoke City is actually shrinking, with an estimated loss of -2.2% between April 2020 and July 2022 and estimated July 1, 2022 population of 97,847. Meanwhile the County has nearly caught up, with currently 96,914 calling the County home.

The Roanoke Star also asked Roanoke County School Board Chairman Brent Hudson if he thought it was appropriate for City officials to come to the County to give instructions. Likewise, Hudson was asked if he knew of any cases where County officials went to the City to scold or correct. Hudson’s response is below:

“I campaigned on keeping social agendas out of our classrooms and I stand by that today by keeping my promise. The children in our schools belong to their parents, not school officials. These agendas have no business being promoted or taught by school staff. The presence of Roanoke City politicians at that rally means nothing to me nor the majority of my Catawba District constituents.  I live in Roanoke County for a reason and have no interest in Roanoke City government.”

The issues of parental rights, quality of education, and protections of children will continue. This November, all 140 seats of the General Assembly will be open for election. Those outcomes will help determine Virginia’s future course.

–Scott Dreyer

Updated 6-10-23

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