My name is Alexis, and I live in Alexandria, VA.
I have serious concerns about the VDOE’s model policies concerning instructional materials with “sexually explicit content,” a broadly vague term that could impact books like Beloved by Toni Morrison, and the Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Such efforts are not an attempt to "give parents control" but an attempt to wrest children's education from the hands of experienced and learned educators to keep kids in the dark about basic facts like "gay people exist."
This is categorically NOT how education systems teach children to think critically and for themselves. This is how education systems indoctrinate children and prevent them from asking questions.
I am also deeply concerned that these policies will unduly exclude materials from Black, Indigenous, Latino/a, and trans, and women authors, which is an inexcusable and racist result.
I did an Americorps year where I worked with second grade students, most of them Black and Hispanic. I saw firsthand how a lack of diversity and representation in books and learning affected my students; my students were more engaged, curious, and active when they could connect to the stories being told. Kids deserve that chance, by keeping curriculum in the hands of educated and certified teachers instead of politicians. I know first hand: seven year olds are smart and capable, and teachers are more than able to evaluate what is age appropriate for certain ages.
It is not disputable: many children know early on that they're gay, bi, or trans. Suppressing materials that contain references to LGBTQ+ folks will immeasurably hurt those students. Kids who don't have language to put to their feelings are more likely to grow up feeling alienated, depressed, and even attempt suicide. State policies that enable that by restricting books affirming those experiences are inexcusable and will permanently damage student welfare for generations.
A restriction on "sexually explicit" materials is unnecessary, condescending to both students and their capable teachers, and truly nothing more than a drummed-up moral panic that will only serve a narrow category of privileged politicians.