Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Education
State Board of Education
Regulations Governing Local School Boards and School Divisions [8 VAC 20 ‑ 720]
Action Amendments Regarding Use of Controversial or Sensitive Instructional Materials
Comment Period Ended on 1/15/2014
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12/16/13  2:41 pm
Commenter: Rebecca Hodell

Objections to objectional content identification

While the motivation behind the changes to 8 VAC 20-131-70 is admirable, in practice the changes are unreasonable.  Clearly, it is important for parents to have input about their children's reading.  As a teacher, I always try to be clear about the content of any novel my class is studying as a whole.  However, it would be impossible for me to predict what might be offensive to each of the families represented in my classroom.  

Additionally, my students read independenty from a wide variety of texts.  This practice is supported by educaitonal research as being the most expeditious route to comprehension, vocabulary, and writing fluency.  For me to alert parents to every book that might have something that someone might find objectional, would seriously curtail my students' freedom of choice.  Instead, I tell parents that their students have choice and that they should discuss their family's values with their children so that the students can make choices that are in line with their parents' expectations. 

Finally, good practice also dictates that I should adjust my teaching and materials to suit my students' needs.  Occasions arise in which I bring instructional materials to class that I had not intended to use at the beginning of the year.  While I always try to choose literature that I believe to be widely acceptable, I cannot guarantee that no one would object.  Also, I would not be able to list such materials on a syllabus because I find them in response to my students needs. 

The same problem would arise when I bring current events and non-fiction journalistic writing to class.  I cannot know in advance what news articles will be written, just as I cannot know whose parents might object to the materials. 

My concern over this proposed amendment is that it is, in practice, impossible to know what others might find objectionable.  Yet, the amendment puts the burden of this impossible prediction on the school and on the teacher. 

CommentID: 29627