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Raise your Hand for Healthy School Environments Symposium

We need to allow people to talk and we need to be open-minded. Our differences don’t need to divide us–they can bring us together. - Dr. Shedrick McCall, an Associate Tenured Professor of Psychology at Virginia State University

On Saturday, Sept. 30, the public education forum “Raise Your Hand for Healthy School Environments” was held in Midlothian, VA. It was produced through a partnership between 4 Public Education and Virginia Public Education Partners (VPEP). VPEP is a grassroots group of parents, teachers, and others from across Virginia who are dedicated to supporting public education and protecting its funding and resources. It was formed in 2018 in response to the many attacks on public education on local, state and national levels.

More than 100 participants from across Virginia attended the forum in person and virtually. Attendees included parents, teachers, school administrators, candidates for school boards and legislative offices, a state senator, and many education advocates.

The program consisted of a keynote speech on Separation of Church and State and six panels that are available on the Virginia Public Education Partners YouTube page. The facts, stories, and recommendations from all of the panels will help any education and school safety advocate. Please watch here:

  1. Anti-LGBTQIA+ and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Rhetoric, Legislation and School Mental Health. Closing down the expansive world view of youth, impacts everyone, not just trans people who are uniquely and extremely impacted.

  2. School Safety, Gun Violence, and School Mental Health. Common myths about gun violence and school safety were addressed, and solutions to improve school mental health were discussed.

  3. Censorship, Book Banning, and the Effect on Student Learning. Panelists cover what and who are driving censorship and an anti-historical approach to world and VA history. They answer the questions: How does book banning and censorship suppress the truth? How does suppressing freedom to read suppress our democracy?

  4. Corporate Career and Technical Education (CTE). Panelists share surprising information about how corporations are driving the education conversation in the arena of CTE, while addressing best practices in CTE.

  5. Charter Schools, Lab Schools, Educational Vouchers, Tax Credits and Critical Education Funding. Panelists discuss the lack of accountability in an educational system that "robs from the needy and gives to the greedy.

  6. Misinformation, Astroturfing and Dark Money. Panelists share how dark money props up fake grassroots groups, and their role in disinformation about education.

Information about the speakers, moderators and panelists can be found at, as well as a list of sponsors. The entire event was recorded and can be accessed at

One person with the right power can make space for others. Being that one ally will affect lives and you will never know it. Small things can be impactful. –Justin Sykes, School Mental Health Panelist


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