Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Education
State Board of Education
Guidance Document Change: The guidance document "Model Policies Concerning Instructional Materials with Sexually Explicit Content" was developed in conjunction with stakeholders in order to comply with SB656 (2022).
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7/14/22  5:27 pm
Commenter: Thomas L McFadden, Front Royal Catholics Civic Education Group

Model Policies Concerning Instructional Materials with sexually-explicit content

This Model Policy has major shortcomings. It is reactionary and places "after the fact" burden on parents. This policy is also somewhat contradictory in view of the “Nondiscrimination” policy that the State required all school boards to adopt. In fact, it promises to be inherently contradictory unless it explicitly places priority on parental rights! That Nondiscrimination policy which identifies psychological "gender" characteristics equally with traditional protected factors such as race, religion, ethnic origins, and disabilities is a minefield for Christian parents and teachers.

The State's understanding of parental rights in education ought to be that they are exercised by individual parents for the best-interests of their children as those parents evaluate what is best for their children. In a broad and diversified culture such as Virginia's, it is obvious that one size doesn't fit all. Throughout Virginia's history, the State has explicitly recognized the vulnerability of school-age children in matters related to sex by passing laws regarding the age of consent and carnal knowledge of a young person. Throughout Virginia's history, which began with an explicitly Judeo-Christian ethos that sex, marriage, and reproduction are interrelated,  the State has enacted laws prohibiting certain types of sexual expression and exhibitions. Times and culture have changed and rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court have nullified some Virginia laws but nevertheless strong opinions about the education of children and their exposure to certain ideas about sexual knowledge and expression remains within the hearts and minds of a substantial, if only a minority, of parents.

One idea that flows through the minds of both the so-called "conservatives" and the so-called "progressives" is that they don't want their children to be hurt. Sex in its various attitudes and expressions, particularly among school-age children, provides many opportunities-- psychological and physical-- to be hurt. A guiding principle of any introduction of any sexually-oriented education ought to be "first do no harm" and "do not override the rights of the minority for the perceived benefit of others." We have seen in the battles between parents and certain county school boards where that dictum, were it to be applied, would contribute to the support for public education and parental satisfaction.

By what mechanism were the public schools authorized to integrate sexuality (explicit or otherwise) into the curriculum? Or was it on the initiative of professional educators and social activists of a philosophical group that asserted it was for the public good.? Is there any research relevant to Virginia, that parents needed and wanted schools to take on that aspect of education? That question is especially relevant to Warren County that is desperate for teachers and the School Board is stating that it has real fear that it can't deliver in math. Plus, Warren County has discipline problems uncontrolled by school administrators that are driving teachers away. The last thing students need is a more-highly charged curriculum.

As it is, the model policy  proposed, sets up an entirely reactionary process that pits individual parents against organized and taxpayer-funded school administrators after the school administrators have purchased at public expense and introduced it to the curriculum or library. We saw that play out in Warren County in February. The School Board held a "public hearing" on a very expensive complete printed and software package for the controversial social engineering program known as Social and Emotional Learning, Step Two. The School Administrators had already purchased the package long before it became public knowledge. Although the School Board charged the Superintendent to provide notice to parents and adequate opportunity to review the material, the whole process was derisory. The School Board, at the urging of the Superintendent, even denied making it an "opt in" instead of an "opt out" and thus an otherwise mandatory program.

Recently in Warren County a parent objected to a certain piece of material and we saw that the School Administrators, on their own, constructed a bureaucratic, closed committee process which permits one parent of their choosing to serve on the review committee.

The point of this suggestion is that the policy ought to be structured so that sexually-oriented curricula in any form ought to be reviewed before it is purchased or placed into service. The basis of the review should be "What is the educational purpose and does it have metrics by which its usefulness can be assessed?  School administrators ought to be accountable for flagging such material and not placing the burden on parents to discover it and object. Even the most libertine professional educator will instinctively recognize something that will prove to be controversial so there is no excuse for stuff skipping review. And, since history has shown that school administrators are not prone to err on the side of parental sensitivities, it is necessary that a parent-heavy committee perform the screenings.

CommentID: 122446