On January 15, 2022, Gov. Youngkin’s first official act focused on public education by issuing Executive Order 1 aimed at limiting access to equity practices under the guise of ending the use of “divisive concepts.” The executive order required the Virginia Department of Education to issue two responsive reports by days 30 and 90 in the administration.
In response, IDRA and other education leaders, researchers and advocates developed this guide for school and community leaders who serve diverse students, parents and caregivers, and teachers.
“Executive Order 1 does not constitute a change in commonwealth law,” said Terrence Wilson, J.D., IDRA regional policy and community engagement director. “School leaders should resist attempts to inaccurately frame education equity as ‘divisive’ and should encourage accurate and truthful lessons that prepare students for the world.”
Local school divisions are required to comply with and, if necessary, enforce commonwealth and federal anti-discrimination law. Those laws remain unchanged by Executive Order 1.
“Drawing on policy, civil rights law and educational leadership perspectives, this guide is designed for school leaders, school division administrators and school board members to continue to ensure that culturally diverse curricula, culturally relevant practices and equity-oriented policies are offered by their school districts," said Tom Shields, Ph.D. "In addition, the authors believe that K-12 leaders should strongly resist attempts to inaccurately frame educational equity as “divisive." Dr. Shields is associate dean for academic and student affairs, chair of graduate education in the School of Professional and Continuing Studies, and associate professor of education and leadership studies at the University of Richmond.
IDRA works across the country to promote culturally sustaining educational practices. These practices promote curriculum, climate, programming, pedagogies and policies that respect and honor students’ cultural backgrounds, while also nurturing, expanding, uplifting, centering and sustaining the cultural experiences of all students, particularly Black, Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander and Indigenous students.
Learn more about our similar work across the U.S. South through the Southern Education Equity Network. Sign up to get involved in your state to protect strong, inclusive education for every student!
And see new lesson plans for teaching about race and culture on IDRA’s We All Belong – School Resource Hub.