Schools rooted in a biblical worldview are seeing increased enrollment in Virginia, while public schools are faltering.

According to a recent report, Catholic schools in Northern Virginia have seen a 10% increase in enrollment since 2019.

The Catholic Diocese of Arlington covers the entirety of Northern Virginia, including Loudoun County, which has been at the heart of the controversy over gender ideology in schools. The diocese is home to 50 schools, ranging from pre-K through high school. Collectively, these schools have 18,488 students this year, a jump of nearly 2,000 since the fall of 2019.

Arlington’s bishop, Michael Burbidge, told The Washington Stand, “One reason for this change is, parents value the underlying philosophy of Catholic education, that parents are the first and primary educators of their children and that schoolteachers and administrators are there to support them in that journey.”

He continued, “[P]arents recognize that young people hear so many untruths and falsehoods in our world today. Thus, they look to enroll their children in schools that, in addition to excellence in education, assist them with the spiritual formation of their children, and teach them the truth in love.”

Meg Kilgannon, senior fellow for education studies at the Family Research Council, further pointed to school closures as a key issue for parents.

“Catholic schools were among the first to reopen for in-person learning,” she told The Washington Stand. “Parents remember this well—Catholic or not. One of the reasons for the election of Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) was disappointment over school closures in progressive counties that were too long and COVID protocols that were onerous and unsupported by research or even ‘the science.’”

“The debate over gender identity in Loudoun County added insult and very real injury,” she added. “The Arlington Diocese has been faithful to [the Catholic Church’s] teachings on sex and gender, so parents feel their children will be safe from queer-theory indoctrination, in addition to knowing the schools can be relied on.”

Since 2020, the Loudoun County Public Schools board has been a hotbed of controversy surrounding gender-ideology policies in schools.

Leesburg Elementary School gym teacher Tanner Cross was suspended in 2020 after citing his Christian faith and complaining to the school board of a policy requiring teachers to refer to students by “preferred” pronouns differing from students’ biological sexes.

West Point High School teacher Peter Vlaming was fired later that year, also for refusing to use a transgender-identifying student’s “preferred” pronouns. Another teacher was barred from including a Bible verse in her email signature.

The Loudoun County Public Schools board also ordered teachers to keep students’ gender transitions and “preferred” pronouns a secret from students’ parents and stocked school library shelves with LGBTQ+ propaganda and pornographic materials.

Other teachers complained of hostile and toxic working environments created by school board policies on gender ideology, critical race theory, and COVID-19, including threats to fire teachers for not wearing face masks.

Outrage against the Loudoun County Public Schools board culminated after the board attempted to cover up the rape and sexual assault of female students by another student.

In May 2021, a male student identifying as “gender fluid” sodomized a 12-year-old girl in the women’s bathroom at Stone Bridge High School. School authorities reported the incident to the local authorities, resulting in criminal charges. The perpetrator was transferred to Broad Run High School in the same school district.

Shortly afterward, the Loudoun County Public Schools board voted to approve a new policy allowing students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that do not correspond to their biological sexes.

When confronted by the Stone Bridge victim’s father, who argued such a policy would only allow further sexual assaults, the school board told him there were no records of a sexual assault.

In October 2021, the same “gender fluid” male student sexually assaulted another female student at Broad Run High School. A state grand jury later declared that the Loudoun County Public Schools board “failed at every juncture” in protecting the two female students from rape and sexual assault, and Superintendent Scott Ziegler was indicted for covering up the rape and the sexual assault, even keeping the information from the school board.

Earlier this year, Youngkin mandated students use the bathrooms and play on the sports teams that correspond to their biological sexes and ordered teachers to inform parents of students’ gender transitions or “preferred” pronouns.

“This is about doing what’s best for the child,” he explained.

Loudoun County is just one example of gender ideology dominating school districts. Kilgannon commented, “The demand for alternatives to public school shows that parents want the best for their children, and they are increasingly skeptical that public schools are up to the task.”

Catholic schools aren’t the only evidence of this trend. Other biblically rooted schools in the area have also seen increased interest and enrollment.

Cornerstone Christian Academy in Middleburg, Virginia, opened its doors on Tuesday, welcoming 545 K-8 students, with plans to add high school grades every year, according to Cornerstone Chapel Senior Pastor Gary Hamrick. The faith- and family-oriented school received a reported 2,000 admissions inquiries the week the church’s plans were announced to the public.

According to its website, Cornerstone Christian Academy focuses on “instilling a Biblical worldview [in students] and forging a culture of excellence grounded in the Truth of God’s Word.”

Kilgannon stressed the importance of such educational institutions and the importance of maintaining the values they teach.

We need to pray that all faith-based schools remain true to their doctrines and values, while expanding in an effort to meet the needs of the community. Our faith-based schools must not turn into church-subsidized, cheaper-option progressive private schools. This is an opportunity to teach and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not conform to the whims of a world gone mad.

The increased enrollment in faith-based schools comes as nearby public schools see decreased enrollment. Between the fall of 2019 and spring of 2023, enrollment in Fairfax County Public Schools, the largest school district in the state, dropped by nearly 10,000 students.

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