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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7/19/22  7:03 pm
Commenter: Anonymous

Concerns regarding SB 656 model policies
My name is Ben Samuels and I live in Centreville, Virginia.
I have serious concerns about the VDOE’s model policies concerning instructional materials with “sexually explicit content,” a broadly vague term that could be applied to important works of literature like Beloved by Toni Morrison or F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.
As a Virginia resident, I believe that classrooms in our state should be a place where students are free to ask questions, engage with new ideas, and learn about diverse viewpoints. The proposed model policies could lead to the exclusion of valuable instructional materials that introduce students to LGBTQ+ stories and experiences, especially those by or for Black, Indigenous, and people of color.  Even worse, they could potentially prevent LGBTQ+ youth from accessing life-saving information about themselves.  Representation matters, and all Virginia students deserve to learn free from censorship and political interference.
While parents are invaluable teachers in their children’s lives, the public school system was established to support parents in educating their children. Teachers, librarians, and education experts have years of experience and are well equipped to introduce diverse and sometimes difficult subjects into the classroom while mitigating the harm and trauma these subjects may cause their students. They are trained professionals whose jobs are to put the students’ interests first. The proposed model policies would make it harder for these educators to do their job and will likely result in censorship due to teacher and librarian’s fear or confusion over what qualifies as “sexually explicit content.”  Furthermore, the marginalized experiences most at risk of this censorship under the proposed policy will not simply stop existing, just because students weren't introduced to them in school; instead, the students will just be more poorly-equipped to navigate these subjects when they inevitably encounter them outside the classroom.  Confronting difficult and uncomfortable topics is a learning experience, and while parental input is certianly important, I believe Virginia's trained educators should be trusted with the final say of when and how to address said topics.
Virginia students deserve to grow up into brave, courageous people who value diversity, equity, and inclusion, and we are all better off when young people are encouraged to embrace these values.
For these reasons, I strongly oppose the proposed model policies.
CommentID: 122794