My name is Lisa Backer and I live in Arlington, 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 Ulysses by James Joyce.
As a Virginia resident I believe that schools should not be weaponized as a place where one religious doctrine prevents access to the full range of educational opportunities. I also believe that religious doctrine should not be used against our LBGTQ teachers and students. Those residents who follow any religious doctrine that would limit school exposure should instead be educating their families in their homes and churches with regards to how to live alongside those that they may not resemble or agree with. It is not for the schools to remove references to anything that may make a church uncomfortable.
As a Virginia resident, I believe that classrooms should be a place where students are free to ask questions, explore 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.”
Virginia students deserve to grow up into brave, courageous people who value diversity and inclusion. We are all better off when young people are encouraged to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion.
It is for these reasons that I oppose the proposed model policies.