Originally published on ABC 7 - October 21, 2022
SPOTSYLVANIA CO. (7News) — School walkouts, contentious school board meetings, and plans to roll back accommodations for transgender students have some families weighing their options when it comes to schooling.
Kendall Tedesco, 14, tried public and private schools, but said the bullying became too much.
She said she was subjected to slurs because she's a part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
"From my memory (it was) mostly verbal, but there were some physical threats," she said.
Her mother, Gail Tedesco, told 7News she felt like the system was failing to keep Kendall safe.
"I hate to use the phrase but we had a "boys will be boys" sort of moment, unfortunately, and we were not going to go down that path," she said.
That was the moment the Spotsylvania County family turned to the Virginia Virtual Academy (VAVA), an online public school with a curriculum that follows state guidelines.
"We go with the free option," Gail Tedesco said. "It's a Virginia public school. We follow Virginia Growth Assessment (VGA) testing, Standards of Learning (SOL) testing, everything you get in a physical location."
The company that runs the program, Stride, Inc., has partnered with 1,000 school districts and charter schools across the country.
"We live in a tense, politically-divided time and often times children end up unwitting victims of adult challenges," said Kevin Chavous, the President of Stride, Inc. "Our view is that these children are entitled to a quality education like all children. That's why many children who have different approaches to life thrive and do well and feel safe."
So far, the program that offers extracurricular activities and mental health resources has been a good fit for Kendall.
She is now an 8th grader taking honors classes, and is a member of the National Junior Honor Society.
Still, Chavous acknowledges that each case is different.
"It is an option that is not for everybody, but frankly it should be available for anybody," Chavous said.
Gail Tedesco said going virtual was not an easy decision, but one that has made a world of difference for her daughter.
"Again, not running away from a problem but looking for an environment where Kendall can be successful and recognizing that it's not the same for every child," she said.
To learn more about Virginia Virtual Academy, visit https://vava.k12.com.
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