Activists, experts train and advise parents on engaging with their kids' education

Nicole Neily, the president of Parents Defending Education, encouraged parents to learn about their rights and how to get involved

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Education activists and experts encouraged and trained parents to be engaged in their schools at a Parental Rights Symposium on Thursday hosted by Heritage Action. 

"As parents, we know that we are better advocates for our children than failing school systems and woke school boards," Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action, told Fox News Digital at the Virginia Beach, Va., event. "With the right training, tools, and resources, we all have the ability to restore ownership over our children's education and promote transparency in our public schools."

The symposium, which was part of Heritage Action's "Save our Schools" initiative and is the second of its kind, was designed to teach parents practical skills like how to run for school board, file Freedom of Information Act requests and opt out of surveys given in schools. 

"I’ve met a lot of parents that are ready to be engaged," Merianne Jensen, a parent from Virginia, told Fox News Digital. "They’re fed up, they’re ready to fight." 

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Jessica Anderson, Executive Director of Heritage Action. 

Jessica Anderson, Executive Director of Heritage Action.  (Aesthetic Images Photography.)

The biggest challenges facing the education system, Jensen said, were issues like critical race theory, social emotional learning and "gender indoctrination." 

"I have never been so terrified sending my kids back to public school," she added. 

HERITAGE ACTION TO TRAIN PARENTS IN VIRGINIA ON BEING ENGAGED IN THEIR KIDS' EDUCATION

Nicole Neily, the president and founder of Parents Defending Education, highlighted surveys and social emotional learning as key issues in the education system. "We try to encourage people to do just a little bit of learning," Neily told Fox News Digital. "The first step is to get informed, because knowledge is power." 

"Probably the thing that concerns me the most about our schools, about where we are as a country, is the fact that, if you look at a poll that came out right around July 4, only about a third of Americans ages 18-29 said they were either very or even somewhat proud to be an American," Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares said during his remarks at the symposium. "One third. A free society cannot remain free if an entire generation of young people have no idea what has made this country truly the last best hope on earth."

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares (Aesthetic Images Photography)

Jensen said parents who want to be involved in their kids' educations should "do something, do anything." 

"They need to speak up, they need to stand out. You’re going to hear garbage all day long, and unless we stand up to it and tell them it’s not OK, it’s going to keep going," she added. 

Janae Stracke (left) with Merianne Jenson (right)

Janae Stracke (left) with Merianne Jenson (right) (Aesthetic Images Photography)

Virginia state senator Bill DeSteph, R., who also spoke at the symposium, highlighted "obscene material" as a critical fight for parents. 

"In the Senate of Virginia, our next fight for parental rights revolves around protecting high schoolers and middle schoolers from the pornography and obscene material that is currently available to them at their public school libraries," he told Fox News Digital. "I have introduced legislation that would, at a minimum, at least give parents a say over whether or not their children can see sexually explicit material at school. Unfortunately, we conservatives are actually facing pushback from liberals in the Senate of Virginia on this issue."

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Panel with Janae Stracke (in focus) and (left to right) Candi Cushman of The Family Foundation; Jonathan Butcher of The Heritage Foundation; Lindsey Burke of The Heritage Foundation; Virginia State Senator Bill DeSteph

Panel with Janae Stracke (in focus) and (left to right) Candi Cushman of The Family Foundation; Jonathan Butcher of The Heritage Foundation; Lindsey Burke of The Heritage Foundation; Virginia State Senator Bill DeSteph (Aesthetic Images Photography)

Jensen also warned it was "possible" for the movement of parents taking an active interest in their kids' educations to lose steam, emphasizing that changing the education system was "an uphill battle." 

"The more that we have been able to educate parents … more parents are actually starting to wake up," she said. 

Neily said she does not see the parent movement dying down. 

"It’s something we feared last year," she said, but added that as students start to go back to school, parents have become increasingly concerned. 

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"Our message to parents across the country is that they are not alone, and we are here to help restore their rights and defend our children," Anderson added. 

Heritage Action plans to host similar events like the Virginia events in South Carolina and Florida over the coming months.