Virginia Senate rejects Youngkin’s Indian-American nominee for Board of Education

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Suparna Dutta. PHOTO: courtesy Suparna Dutta

The Democrat-led Virginia State Senate, on February 7, 2023, voted to reject the confirmation of a number of people nominated by the Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin including Indian-American Suparna Dutta, who was nominated in July 2022 to serve on the Virginia (VA) Board of Education.

Dutta who served as the Chairperson for “Educators for Youngkin” during Youngkin’s Gubernatorial campaign, has been serving on the nine-member VA Board of Education since July. She is the co-founder of the Coalition for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ), which sued the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) in March 2021, with respect to the alleged racist admission policies against Asian students at TJ.

Reacting to the VA Senate’s decision, Youngkin in a statement said, “They voted to remove Suparna Dutta, shockingly, claiming that a public school parent isn’t qualified to serve on the Board of Education,” adding, “She is a mother and advocate for parents’ rights, she is an immigrant and an advocate for Asian American rights, she is an engineer and advocate for STEM in education. She is not only qualified, she epitomizes parental involvement in our schools and we need her voice on our Board of Education.”

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Speaking to News India Times on February 8, Dutta said, “They voted to deny my appointment on the board. While I’m disappointed, I look forward to continuing my advocacy for education and bringing about a positive impact in the lives of our children,” while emphasizing she devoted her energy to raise expectations for students and teachers in Virginia and spoke against the incursion of divisive ideology in social studies education.

According to Dutta, there was a coordinated smear campaign against her for defending the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as “remarkable documents” and for speaking out against socialism and communism.

“A series of blatant lies and slurs were propagated by the progressive left on the internet and those lies were peddled by VA State Senator Ghazala Hashmi on the floor of the Virginia Senate,” Dutta added. She claimed she has direct knowledge that a local mosque and Muslim business groups lobbied Senators against her.

Hashmi, an Indian-American, introduced a last-minute amendment based on which Senate Democrats rejected Dutta’s nomination on party-line vote 22-18. “In taking a look at the history of this particular individual [Dutta] that there are areas of problematic concerns for all of us. One area that I would just speak to briefly is the alignment that we’ve seen with very extreme and right-wing white supremacists’ groups…” Hashmi said.

“This particular board member [Dutta] indicated that racism was not a factor in American history, that the Constitution of the United States did not have any indications of racism or slavery within the document,” Hashmi said while pointing out that was incorrect and that concerns of slavery have been all over American history.

Dutta’s rejection comes on the heels of an argument with another member of the VA Board of Education and wife of US Senator Tim Kaine, Anne Holton, who served as VA’s Secretary of Education from 2014-16. Both sparred over two foundational principles “Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as remarkable documents,” and socialism or communist political systems is incompatible with democracy and individual freedoms” as outlined in the History and Social Science Standards of Learning for Virginia Public Schools.

Holton while pointing out she was not comfortable with the language in foundational principles, noted “To an audience as inclusive as our Virginia is, you cannot reference the Declaration of Independence and Constitution as remarkable documents without also acknowledging that they contain fundamental flaws of enshrining slavery and limiting the protections that they provided for only to white propertied men.”

While conceding that communism is incompatible with democracy, Holton asked, “So… is socialism compatible with democracy?” while adding “That would be a great debate to have in a 12th grade government civics class. It would not be something I would want to take a stand… in this document here.”

In response, Dutta – while defending the Constitution – underscored, “The Declaration and the Constitution are remarkable documents. I do not believe the Declaration and the Constitution enshrine slavery, nor did they limit protections to white propertied men. Maybe… you meant to describe the Constitution, but it didn’t mention race or slavery.” About socialism and communism, Dutta opined, “I think socialism is just as bad as communism. Socialism is like a nanny state… I come from a country which used to be more socialistic than it is now…”

In support of Dutta, before the confirmation vote on February 7, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, also urged State Senators to advance her nomination.

Senior Fellow, Independent Women’s Network, Indian-American Asra Nomani tweeted, “In Virginia, Dem. Sen. Ghazala Hashmi defamed a Hindu woman of color from India as being aligned with white supremacists. Then Dems voted unanimously 22-18, killing Suparna’s nomination to the VA Board of Education based on character assassination. Welcome to the new racism…”

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