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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7/15/22  12:11 pm
Commenter: Lila Derrico

Keep Classrooms a Safe Space for Learning
My name is Lila Derrico and I live in Richmond City, Virginia. I taught high school in Henrico County, 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 and ex-teacher, 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. I have seen the value of students feeling represented and seen in their educational spaces; I have watched students earn A's and B's who were "destined to fail" because they saw themselves in the literature we were reading and felt empowered to take control of their education and future.
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. We are keenly trained for those moments when parents may not be. We are trained professionals whose jobs are to put the students’ interests first. The proposed model policies would make it harder for educators to do their jobs and will likely result in censorship. As an ex-teacher, I know firsthand that it is harder to do my job to the best of my ability when I am living in fear that my good intentions to help a student could cause a parent to lash out at me or the school.
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 not something to fear, but something to embrace with open arms.
It is for these reasons that I oppose the proposed model policies.
CommentID: 122495