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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8/3/22  9:10 am
Commenter: Julie Stern

Strongly Oppose

I strongly oppose these model policies, which could have a detrimental effect on education in today’s classrooms, were rushed with minimal input, and are supported by a bill that passed on overwhelmingly partisan lines.

These model policies will detrimentally affect students and public education for three reasons

  1. The policy definitions, as written, are overly broad and will impact books that have been in school curricula for decades. 

  2. Teachers are the arbiters of “explicit” content, which means that they have two options: a) develop two separate curricula, or b) choose the most innocuous, least challenging materials to ensure that they are not violating the policy. Neither of these options are ideal for teachers, students, or families.

  3. The policies will lead to censorship within public schools, particularly censorship of books about LGBTQ+ characters and issues. Even civil rights lessons could be censored to exclude rights for homosexual and lesbian individuals. 

Particularly worrisome is the fact that model policy definitions linked to in the law and policy explicitly say that “homosexuality” triggers the law and limitations, which could lead to the elimination of discussion or recognition of students, educators, staff, and families who are members of the LGBTQ+ community. People who are not heterosexual should NOT be considered “sexually explicit” by the Virginia Department of Education or Virginia public schools.

These "explicit materials" policies are also duplicative of policies that already exist in Virginia, which already provide transparency into public school libraries curricula. Parents have always had the right to opt their child out of certain classroom materials. In many school districts, all materials are approved by a committee that includes educators and parents/guardians. These new policies are clearly unnecessary, and will only add new layers of bureaucracy and censorship onto Virginia public schools.


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