On Thursday, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin appeared on CNN for an education-themed town hall with Jake Tapper, where concerned citizens directly asked the Republican, a likely contender for the party’s presidential nomination, questions on everything from the state’s gun laws to artificial intelligence in classrooms. In typical Youngkin fashion, he tap danced around most of the issues.
I sorted through the canned responses and non-answers. Here are the key takeaways:
Youngkin Is Happy With His Review of Virginia’s AP African-American Studies Course
Youngkin defended his first executive order banning critical race theory and other subjects deemed inherently divisive. Youngkin, one of the key players spearheading the ongoing Republican war against CRT, claimed during Thursday’s town hall that he isn’t against history being taught accurately in schools. But schools, according to Youngkin, should be prohibited from teaching “that a child is guilty for sins of the past because of their race or religion or their sex.” (CRT does not do that.)
When I was a young girl schools in Virginia were closed so Black students like me could not attend. The Civil Rights Act that followed lifted up our community and helped send me on a course to the Virginia Senate. Governor Youngkin should apologize immediately for his comment. pic.twitter.com/s85QLUuQnT
— L. Louise Lucas (@SenLouiseLucas) March 10, 2023
The question follows Youngkin’s order for a review of Virginia’s pilot AP African-American studies program, a clear effort to replicate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. During his CNN appearance, Youngkin doubled down on that decision.
Youngkin Wanted to Sign Book Removals Into Law
The governor confirmed that if a recently killed bill to ban books had come across his desk, he would’ve happily signed it. The bill, HB 1448, sought to mandate new policies around the selection and removal of books inside school libraries. The legislation, which passed the state’s GOP-majority House, was later defeated by Virginia’s Democratic-majority Senate.
“Had that bill passed, I would have signed it,” Youngkin said on Thursday. “And then we would have engaged with communities, not in a strong-handed way, but in an engaged way, to listen and discuss and make good decisions for our kids.”
Youngkin Stands Behind His Rollback on Transgender Students’ Rights
When a 17-year-old transgender student asked about the governor’s removal of trans protections, and specifically whether Youngkin wanted him, a transgender man, to use a woman’s bathroom, Youngkin said that the answer was simply more gender-neutral bathrooms. He also defended his policy of forcing trans kids to play on sports teams based on their sex assigned at birth.
“Sports are very clear,” Youngkin said. “I don’t think it’s controversial. I don’t think that biological boys should be playing sports with biological girls. There have been decades of efforts in order to gain opportunities for women in sports, and it’s just not fair.”
What about LGBTQ students whose parents don’t support them? Youngkin said that children “belong to their parents, not the state.”
“Your transgender policies require students play on the sports teams and use the restrooms that correspond with their sex assigned at birth. . Look at me, I am a transgender man. Do you think the girls in my high school would feel comfortable sharing a restroom with me? “ pic.twitter.com/d8DST7G5tW
— Acyn (@Acyn) March 10, 2023
Youngkin Defends Virginia’s Gun Laws
During the town hall, a parent of a Richneck Elementary School student, where a 6-year-old allegedly shot a teacher in January, asked Youngkin about his plans to strengthen Virginia’s gun laws. And, as per usual, Youngkin dodged the question, claiming the state must focus on mental health before asserting that Virginia already has some of the strongest gun laws in the country.
“That storage law could use some work though,” Jake Tapper said.
“What we continue to find is that those gun laws don’t keep us safe,” Youngkin said in response to Tapper. Because it’s not laws that keep us safe. It’s the behavior of people that we need to make sure that we’re paying attention to. Parents have a responsibility to keep guns out of their young children’s hands, and they need to be held accountable for that.”
Virginia’s GOP-led House has come under fire for killing the majority of gun storage bills during its most recent legislative session.