SB 656 allows public school boards to adopt policies that are more comprehensive than the model policies. COMMENT: School boards should be required to include in their policies under SB 656 an affirmative statement that the school board policy includes the entire 20 USC section 1232h of the Federal Protection of Pupil Rights Act.
COMMENT: The definition of "sexually explicit content" at section 2.2-2827 includes 'sexual conduct.' "Sexual conduct", as defined at section 18.2-390 includes homosexuality. School boards must be required to include in their policies a statement that books or instructional materials containing homosexual, transgender, and other gender identity content, regardless of grade level, may not be targeted to be banned or censored from all students or from any or all school libraries.
COMMENT: Parental Right to Review Instructional Materials includes at (D) that providing alternative instructional materials be done in a manner that is not punitive. Parents of students not banning their child from any book or instructional materials, and students themselves, not banned from such materials must have equal protection from punitive actions or behavior.
COMMENT: Proposed policies require at least a 30 day prior written notice to parents about sexually explicit instructional materials. THIS TIMELINE IS NOT IN SB 656. It is a ridiculous requirement that will not be able to be implemented and places undue burden on teachers. There is no provision to provide an overtime contract or a contract to work during the summer reviewing instructional materials for the elusive 'sexually explicit content.' There is no agreement what 'sexually explicit content' means to any individual, school personnel, or parent. This undue burden on teachers will lead to even more retirements and fewer applicants for teaching positions in Virginia's public schools. Is that the hidden agenda?
COMMENT: School boards must include in their SB 656 policies that protects free speech of all school personnel, including the right to display pictures of same sex spouses, to refer to same sex spouses, and to freely talk about their family structure during school and at all school-sponsored events. There shall be no judgement that free speech for school personnel violates any definition or interpretation of 'sexually explicit content."
COMMENT: Policies must include the right of teachers to protect confidentiality of students when a student confides something of a personal nature to the teacher and requests the teacher or school personnel maintain confidentiality. Certain books or materials may motivate a student to confide in a teacher. Teachers are not prevented from contacting parents about a confidential issue a student told them, but they should not be required to violate a request for confidentiality. Students confiding sexual issues, including transgender issues and gender identity issues can be unsafe at home if parents know about their gender or sexual identity issues. No school personnel should be required to put a student at risk.
COMMENT: The VDE should require school board policies under SB 656 to include a Title IX statement according to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity) discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
COMMENT: The VDE should maintain the right to require school boards to delete or amend any policies that are discriminatory, or that could result in discrimination against any student or parent because of gender identity, sexual preference, or a parental decision about their child's access to books, instructional material containing sexually explicit content. The meaning of 'sexually explicit content' is subjective. The parental option to opt their child out from books or instructional materials is sufficient.
COMMENT: Whereas SB 656 shall not be construed as requiring or providing for censoring of books in public elementary and secondary schools, it does not prevent banning and censorship. Therefore, school board policies must contain a statement that books and instructional materials will not be censored or banned. Instead, parents should use the option provided in SB 656 section 22.1-16.8(B)(3).
COMMENT: SB 656 is limited in its requirements. The VDE must use its authority to disallow school board policies that are far more 'comprehensive' than the model policies.