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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8/2/22  10:28 am
Commenter: Sara Ward

Redundancy / Over Regulation

I have concerns about the policy as it seems to be overly broad in nature. 

From reading the policy it appears that “sexually explicit” materials could include books that have been in school libraries for decades, such as William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, The Bible, or Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Where I feel it is okay for parents to censor what their children read, I do not believe they have the right to censor exposure by other students. 

Additionally, the policy makes teachers the arbiters of “explicit” content, which sets them up for two options: a) develop two separate curriculums, or b) choose the most innocuous materials to ensure that they are not violating the policy - thereby denying students whose parents don't oppose the material this educational experience. This sets teachers up to spend an inordinate amount of their day being the arbiter of curriculum content and puts them in the role of censor. They are teachers in an educational environment. Will Science classes about the human body be eliminated as a result of this policy? What about Health classes? These classes have been taught for decades. Where does this policy start and stop? It seems like a pandora's box. 

For example, the policy opens the door for censorship within public schools, particularly censorship of books about LGBTQIA characters and issues. Civil rights lessons could be censored and allow for discrimination within our public schools. Will authors be censored based on sex, gender or race under the guise of "sexually explicit" content? What are the boundaries of the policy?

The policy makes clear that standardized tests are exempt from this policy. Will students be underprepared for these exams if Human Anatomy is no longer taught due to this policy implementation? What other lessons might be eliminated that could impact test performance? ?

To a certain degree, this policy is duplicative of policies that already exist in Virginia's schools that provide transparency into the libraries and curricula of public schools. What is to be accomplished? Is it overly broad for a reason? Localities have policies in place for parents to opt their students out of lessons, materials, library books, etc. Parents have always had the right to opt their child out of material in the classroom. In many school districts, all materials are approved by a committee that includes educators and parents/guardians. Why remove this power from localities? 

CommentID: 124535