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Senate Democrats kill Youngkin-backed bill on school awards

Glenn Youngkin_AP_011123
John C. Clark
The Associated Press
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin delivers his State of the Commonwealth address to a joint session of the Virginia Legislature on Jan. 11, 2023.

Virginia Senate Democrats this week voted down a priority measure for Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin that would have required student and parental notification about certain scholastic awards.

Youngkin sought the legislation in response to concerns about how some northern Virginia school districts delayed recognizing student achievements on a standardized test.

The legislation would have prohibited any school or school employee from withholding information that relates to recognition or awards earned by the student, or information that may affect the student's admission to an institution of higher education.

Democrats on the Senate Education and Health Committee argued in a hearing Thursday that there was little reason to think the northern Virginia school districts' mistakes were intentional. They raised concerns about including such specific language in the state code.

Sen. Chap Petersen said he believed the bill was an effort to turn the matter into a political issue.

The measure sponsored by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant was voted down 8-7, with one Democrat, Sen. Jeremy McPike, joining Republicans on the committee in backing it.

Youngkin told TV station WJLA after Thursday's vote that the issue was "just a matter of common sense."

"I don't understand how anybody could object to the idea that when a student receives an award or an accolade that they are informed about it, and that this is just a matter of common sense. And I do believe that our General Assembly eventually will come around to common sense," he said.

A House version of the bill is still alive but is likely to meet the same fate when it crosses to the Senate.

The delay in the notification of the awards has prompted complaints from some parents and activists who say the schools chose to withhold the information to downplay individual achievement in favor of equity.

Republican Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares has an investigation into the matter.

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