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Virginia Teachers Will Soon Undergo Cultural Competency Training Under New Law

Virginia history is complicated, and now teachers in Virginia will have help explaining some of the racial elements to students.

The 400-year anniversary of the first enslaved people arriving in Virginia prompted some serious soul-searching, including the 1619 Project and a commission set up by Governor Ralph Northam to examine how that history is explained in Virginia classrooms. Now Virginia teachers are about to get new cultural competency training to help them navigate those difficult conversations about race and slavery.

Here's Education Secretary Atif Qarni speaking on behalf of the governor in favor of legislation on this.

"This bill is a direct result of the commission the governor set up on African-American history education, and that commission was made up of a lot of historians, educators, national experts, civil rights leaders and faith leaders," Qarni says. "They came up with a robust set of recommendations."

One of those recommendations was evaluations on cultural competency. Candi Cushman at the Family Foundation says she worries that creating new evaluations for teachers may force them to accept radical ideology.

"We just really feel like the General Assembly should be focused on passing laws that actually help teachers be better at subjects they teach like math and science rather than what might be forcing them to go through an ideological boot camp just to get licensed," explains Cushman.

Now, the governor has signed this bill into law, setting the stage for the State Board of Education to issue new guidance by the end of the year.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.