Virginia Considers New Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Standards for K-12 Students that Will Indoctrinate with Critical Race Theory


Call to Action: Send your comments to Virginia Department of Education Superintendent James Lane at [email protected], the Board of Education at [email protected]. Ask Emily Webb, director of board relations, to forward your message to each board member.


The Virginia Department of Education has quietly crafted “Social and and Emotional Learning” standards, known as “SEL,” in an effort that will clear the way for more indoctrination and activism in classrooms, with the standards “centered on equity” and key concepts of critical race theory as hallmarks of the new learning, according to a copy of draft standards.

For example, in teaching to eleventh and twelfth grade teachers, the new standards plan to give teachers permission to instruct students “about when and how to take a stand against bias and injustice in my everyday life or community and will do so despite negative peer or group pressure.”

The new standards represent a significant departure from a memo, “Criteria for Character,” that the Virginia Board of Education passed in 2002, outlining “character” education but stating, “Each local character education program shall…avoid indoctrination of any religious or political belief…”

Many parents fear the creation of the new standards will open the door to schools teaching controversial topics to students, like critical race theory. Already, despite having a team that includes 12 Virginia Department of Education staffers, the state’s “SEL Implementation Team” brought in an outside organization — the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning — steeped in critical race theory to craft the policy.

The draft, published and announced April 23 in a memo by Superintendent James Lane, said, “The Social Emotional Learning Implementation Team identified VDOE priorities that needed to be considered in the creation of Virginia’s vision and definition of Social Emotional Learning. The Team worked with the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) to bring Virginia’s unique vision of social emotional learning to the Standards for all K-12 students.”

The public comment period opened on April 26, and closes on May 26, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. Community members can post comments if they would like.

According to an email from an official in the Virginia Department of Education Office of Student Services, the Virginia Department of Education did not have a standard in place.

In the May 5 email, the state official states:

“The Virginia SEL standards are newly developed (i.e. we have not had SEL standards prior to 2021).  They were developed as a result of 2020 legislation (see House Bill 753).  The first first few pages of the document go through the process that we used to develop these guidance standards. It is also important to note that many school districts have SEL programs or have been teaching SEL skills, some with locally developed standards or through using national examples.  
Also important to note is that these are guidance standards. There is no requirement for local school divisions to implement these standards or to develop their own.” 

Members of the public have already published stinging rebukes of the plan. Several comments submitted anonymously state clear opposition to the proposal, including these comments:

  • Strongly oppose Social Emotional Learning policy recommendations. The proposed HB753 is a terrible document. SEL standards “centered in equity” is a racist approach to Social Emotional Learning. Students do not need to be indoctrinated in school. This is not the job of the schools. Educate students in math, English, science etc. Leave our students alone and stop trying to turn them all into “anti-racist” activists. Why is the VDOE trying to push this through without properly advertising the opportunity for public comment? It is not your job to “teach” students about unconscious bias. It is not your job to introduce students to critical race theory in public school. The VDOE has lost its’ way.” This post came from an anonymous parent.
  • Pure racism in VA Public Education. This racist and anti American ideology using the “equity” propaganda is beyond absurd. The social-emotional learning proposal is completely inappropriate and out of line. You are not focusing on FACT and proper education. You want to force students to adopt your skewed personal views in order to graduate. This is not the Department of Education. Be honest and change the name to Department of Indoctrination.”
  • Nope nope nope. You need to focus on getting kids to read at grade level and learn math, science, and factual history. Leave the rest to us parents. Stop the indoctrination of our children.”

The draft noted that the effort began as a result of HB753, an initiative pushed by the activist agenda of Virginia Education Secretary Atif Qarni.

It said: “The 2020 Virginia General Assembly passed House Bill 753 directing the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to establish a uniform definition of social-emotional learning and to develop guidance standards for social-emotional learning for all public students in grades Kindergarten through 12 in the Commonwealth and to make such standards available to each local school division no later than July 1, 2021.”

It said: “This intentional focus allows the Standards to explicitly teach the skills needed to be ‘life ready’ and to create more equitable learning environments.”

It said: “The Team focused on existing VDOE initiatives that reflected this vision. In doing so, the SEL Standards are aligned with the Profile of a Virginia Graduate and centered in equity.”

Some of the areas for clear activism and critical race theory include:

  • Grade 7, “Social Awareness,” includes: “SoA2: 7-8b, I can explain the difference between conscious bias and unconscious (implicit) bias.”
  • Grade 9, “Social Awareness,” includes: “SoA2: 9-10b, I can recognize that my conscious and unconscious biases how they affect my interactions with others.”
  • Grades 11-12, “Social Awareness,” includes: “SoA2: 11-12a, I can recognize, describe and distinguish inequity and injustice at different levels of society.”
  • Grades 11-12, “Social Awareness,” includes: “SoA2: 11-12b, I can identify and work to address my own conscious biases and implicit (unconscious) biases.”
  • Grades 11-12, “Relationship Skills,” includes: “ReS1: 11-12d, I can make ethical decisions about when and how to take a stand against bias and injustice in my everyday life or community and will do so despite negative peer or group pressure.”


James Sherlock, Bacon’s Rebellion, “VDOE’s Radical Approach to SEL Far Exceeds Its Legislative Mandate,” May 10, 2021.