Virginia Senate Democrats Kill “Divisive Concepts” Bill

Workers begin digging a tunnel to connect the new General Assembly building to the Capitol Wednesday March 2, 2022, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

By Amie Knowles

March 4, 2022

HB 787 passed the Virginia House of Delegates, but hit obstacles in the Virginia Senate, where it was ultimately killed.

History class would’ve been a lot different if we would’ve learned only about the topics on which people morally agreed. However, House Bill (HB) 787 aimed to do just that when it made it to the 2022 Virginia General Assembly. Senate Democrats killed the bill in a party-line vote on March 3.

Introduced by Dave LaRock, a Republican who serves parts of Frederick, Loudoun, and Clarke counties, the bill set out to ban “divisive concepts” taught in Virginia’s K-12 schools.

As the bill traveled through the chambers, LaRock slashed the “divisive concepts” language from the wording, but kept five of the eight concept bans he proposed. Those included:

  • One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex
  • Based on race or sex, an individual is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously
  • An individual should face discrimination or receive adverse treatment because of their race or sex
  • Race or sex determines an individual’s moral character
  • Based on race or sex, an individual bears responsibility for actions that members of the same race or sex committed in the past

The three concepts struck from the original bill were:

  • The Commonwealth of Virginia or the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist
  • An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or psychological distress because of their race or sex
  • Meritocracy or traits, such as a hard work ethic, are racist or sexist or were created by a particular race to oppress another race

The Democratic Party of Virginia outlined some of the concepts the bill aimed to remove from Virginia K-12 classrooms, including the Three-Fifths Compromise, where enslaved Americans counted as three-fifths of a person, the history of Jim Crow, school integration, and the landmark marriage equality case Obergefell v. Hodges.

On Feb. 14, Del. Dan Helmer, who serves Fairfax County and Prince William County, took to Twitter where he expressed his frustrations with the bill.

“[Gov. Glenn Youngkin] wrote Day [One] ‘We must equip our teachers to teach our students the entirety of our history—both good and bad.’ GOP just voted against teaching [the] 3/5[ths] Compromise. Literally in the Constitution. Patriots fought to change that,” Helmer posted. “So much for teaching history #TeachTruth.”

HB 787 passed the Virginia House of Delegates, but hit obstacles in the Virginia Senate. On Feb. 16, the Senate referred the bill to the Committee on Education and Health, which eight days later assigned it to the Senate Education and Health Sub-Committee: Public Education. 

On March 3, the bill was passed by indefinitely by Senate Democrats in a party-line vote of 9-6.

  • Amie Knowles

    Amie is Dogwood's community editor. She has been in journalism for several years, winning multiple awards from the Virginia Press Association for news and features content. A lifelong Virginia resident, her work has appeared in the Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee and NWNC Magazine.

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