Agencies | Governor
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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7/28/22  10:30 pm
Commenter: Rachel Gagen

Oppose this bill, Support all kids, trust our teachers
My name is Rachel Gagen and I live in Lynchburg, Virginia where I am a pediatrician, a mother, and a advocate for public schools and public health which are highly dependent on each other. 
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 science textbooks as well as important works of literature like Beloved by Toni Morrison or Fried Green Tomatoes by Fannie Flagg.   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. 
As a community physician, I see children and adolescents everyday who are struggling to understand themselves and the rules of our community. As a resident of Central Virginia, I have met multiple LGBTQ children who are surrounded by shame, physical and verbal harassment. There are plenty of books from the Bible to Shakespeare that include sexual explicit material - mostly heterosexual. We cannot believe in 2022 that LGBTQ children do not exist in every county of the commonwealth. And we know that they have much higher rates of mental health problems and suicide. 
Representation matters, these students and there heterosexual peers deserve to learn about the world at large. LGBTQ education can be life-saving, 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.
Thanks for all of your work supporting Virginia's LGBTQ+ community! Please let me know if you have any questions.
Rachel Gagen, MD IBCLC
CommentID: 124136