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).
Previous Comment     Next Comment     Back to List of Comments
7/25/22  4:54 pm
Commenter: Keith W

Oppose as written/Must At Least Clarify "Sexually Explicit"

The idea that parents should be notified of "sexually explicit" content in their child's course materials might seem to be obvious, but this bill was developed in response to one parent's reaction to the use of  Toni Morrison's novel "Beloved" in a upper-level high school course. While there are references to sex and scenes involving sex between characters, the novel has come in too much public conversation--including this bill--to be defined as something like pornography, which it is not. The bill insists "that the provisions of the bill shall not be construed as requiring or providing for the censoring of books in public elementary and secondary schools;" but the mere fact that a teacher has flagged content as "sexually explicit" is likely to have such an effect, particularly given the often exaggerated outcry whipped up on social media and by ambitious politicians. This includes a tendency to regard nearly anything involving or even hinting of LGBTQ as somehow "explicit."

It would be best to allow individual school districts to set policies for potentially sensitive course materials. Any model policies should include a clearer definition of the term "sexually explicit," and provisions protecting teachers from possible retaliation for choosing materials with sensitive content in order to minimize the possible effects of exaggeration and tendencies towards informal censorship.

CommentID: 122978