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  11:09 am
Commenter: Kelli Garcia

Oppose the Model Policies

I am writing to oppose VDOE’s model policies regarding instructional materials with “sexually explicit content.” This term is overly vague and will unnecessarily burden teachers who will have to apply it. Important works of literature such as Beloved by Toni Morrison,  Ulysses by James Joyce, the House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Portrait of a Lady by Henry James or East of Eden by James Steinbeck could be considered by some to have “sexually explicit content”. 

As a Virginia resident, I believe that classrooms should be a place where students are free to engage critically with literature. Books should challenge us to ask questions, explore new ideas, and learn about diverse viewpoints. As we have seen in the past few years, books are more likely to be challenged when they are by and about LGBTQ+ people and Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other people of color. The proposed model policies could cause valuable instructional materials to be excluded.

Even worse, they could potentially prevent LGBTQ+ youth from accessing life-saving information about themselves.  Representation matters, and all Virginia students deserve to learn free from censorship and political interference. I will never forget reading the House on Mango Street. It was the first time I saw something close to my lived experiences reflected in writing. No one should be denied the opportunity to connect with literature that moves them or to seem themselves reflected in the books they read. 

Parents will always be the main source of guidance for their children. They do not need this proposed policy. They already have options available to them if they are concerned about something their child is reading in school.

We shouldn’t undermine teachers, librarians, and education experts who have years of experience and are well equipped to introduce diverse and sometimes difficult subjects into the classroom. 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. The policies’ very vagueness will cause teachers and librarians to be overly broad and exclude materials based on fear that they could be considered to have “sexually explicit content.” Would the mere mention of sex count as sexually explicit content? Kissing? Discussion of sexual orientation?  We need to support our educators, not add new rules that will just make it harder for them to teach.

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.


CommentID: 124765