My name is Sarah Blumenthal 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 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. Representation matters, and all Virginia students deserve to learn free from censorship and political interference. Even worse, these policies could potentially prevent LGBTQ+ youth from accessing life-saving information about themselves. LGBTQ+ youth are at documented higher risk of suicide. They deserve to feel safe and valued; erasing their presence in books they read or other media they consume serves to hurt them, which does not represent the kind of country or state we should want to be.
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.” For the record, censorship is destructive and repressive. We should not aim to be a society that perpetrates it.
It is for these reasons that I oppose the proposed model policies.