GOP Virginia governor candidate airs new ad starring a parent who wanted to remove Toni Morrison's 'Beloved' from schools because it gave her nearly college-age son nightmares

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In this Oct. 11, 2021, file photo Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin talks to supporters during a meet and greet at a sports bar in Chesapeake, Va.
The Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin talking to supporters during a meet-and-greet at a sports bar in Chesapeake on October 11. AP Photo/Steve Helber, File
  • A new ad for Virginia's Republican gubernatorial nominee features a local mother, Laura Murphy.

  • She fought to get Toni Morrison's "Beloved" removed from her son's AP English curriculum in 2013.

  • Murphy said the book gave her son nightmares and argued for parents to have more say in curricula.

A new ad for the Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin's campaign features a woman who sought to have the Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison's classic 1987 novel, "Beloved," removed from her son's school curriculum because it gave him nightmares.

"As a parent, it's tough to catch everything," Laura Murphy, identified as a Fairfax County mother, says in the ad. "So when my son showed me his reading assignment, my heart sunk. It was some of the most explicit material you can imagine. I met with lawmakers. They couldn't believe what I was showing them. Their faces turned bright red with embarrassment."

Murphy does not mention in the ad, however, that her son was a high-school senior at the time and that the book in question, assigned as part of his Advanced Placement English curriculum, was "Beloved," the novel about slavery in America that won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Murphy said she didn't want to ban the novel outright, but she led an effort in 2012 and 2013 to remove the novel from her son's school's AP English curriculum until the district implemented new policies requiring parental notification and the opportunity for students to opt out and elect to read a different book without such content.

"To me, mature references means slavery or the Holocaust," Murphy told The Washington Post in 2013. "I'm not thinking my kid is going to be reading a book with bestiality."

The book, based on a true story, tells the story of Sethe, a woman who, after escaping slavery, kills her eldest daughter to prevent her from being enslaved too. The book also depicts gang rape, bestiality, and other cruelties associated with slavery.

"It was disgusting and gross," her son Blake Murphy, then a freshman in college, told The Post about the book in 2013. "It was hard for me to handle. I gave up on it."

Murphy told The Post that she wasn't "some crazy book burner," saying, "I have great respect and admiration for our Fairfax County educators." She continued: "The school system is second to none. But I disagree with the administration at a policy level."

At the time, The Post reported schools were required to notify parents and get their permission ahead of time if a teacher wanted to show a movie with sexually explicit content and gave students the option to opt out of reading books that made them uncomfortable, but they did not require advance parental notification to assign books containing such material.

Murphy initially sought to get the book removed from the school district's required readings altogether until it imposed a policy requiring parental notification and the option to opt out of studying sexually explicit content. But the Fairfax County School Board declined to take up Murphy's challenge, and it remained as part of the school's curriculum.

Murphy, as she alluded to in the ad, then appealed to the state legislature, which at that time was controlled by Republicans, and secured the passage of statewide legislation dubbed "the 'Beloved' bill," to set the same standard for books.

But Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat who served from 2014 to 2018 and is now running to hold the governor's office for another term, vetoed the measure in 2016.

Youngkin and other Republican candidates in Virginia are campaigning on school- and education-related issues in the final stretch before the commonwealth's November 2 elections.

Republicans are trying to galvanize parents' frustrations with the way students are taught about race (grouped by the GOP under the umbrella of "critical race theory") and COVID-19-related mandates, hoping school-related issues will help the GOP regain ground among educated, suburban voters.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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