As a parent of two elementary-aged children in Virginia public schools, I strongly oppose this bill and its proposed model policies.
The language in the bill describing materials as "sexually explicit" is incredibly vague and could be applied to any number of widely respected and important books, including some of those that I read as a high school student in Virginia public schools in the 1990s, including Beloved by Toni Morrison, and The Awakening by Kate Chopin, and that were incredibly important to my developing an understanding of the world around me. I trust our public school teachers and librarians, and support the inclusion of literature and curriculum that helps my children take multiple perspectives, develop empathy and understanding of differences, and exposes them to ideas and people with lived experiences different from their own. I wish I had had MORE of that as a student in Virginia public schools; not less.
The proposed model policies in this bill are very likely to have a detrimental impact on LGBTQ students and students from historically excluded groups in particular. For too long the stories of individuals with these identities have been marginalized; representation matters, and not just for the people within these groups, but to those outside them as well. We fear what we do not know, and too many hate what they fear. Exposing young people to the stories of those who are different from them allows them to know one another better. I want my children to read, learn, and talk about what it is like to be a person of color who experiences racism; to be a transgender person in our society; to be any adolescent growing up and trying to navigate the difficulties of puberty, emerging sexuality, and identity formation. Censorship will not prevent our kids from ultimately learning about difficult or sensitive topics; but it will very likely prevent them from learning about them in an accurate, safe, and supportive manner and environment.
I trust our public school employees, and the proposed model policies in this bill will continue to make it harder for them to do their jobs effectively. We need our public schools, and they will only ever be as good as the professionals who work in them; we cannot afford to continue to lose good teachers, librarians, administrators, etc. because they no longer have the autonomy to do their jobs. Virginia is better than this, and our kids deserve an education that is inclusive, embraces diversity, and supports equity for all.