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).
My name is Paige and I live in Charlottesville, Virginia.
I have deep 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 and teaching materials. The model policies could create a disastrous chilling atmosphere for education and allow the bigoted, hateful views of one parent negatively impact and dictate the education of entire groups of students. In nearly all cases of book bannings (or similar efforts) the topics or authors of the stories are from marginalized groups (BIPOC and LGBTQ+), indicating that it is often outdated, religiously motivated and myopic viewpoints that are dismissing such literature.
As a Virginia resident and relative of many teachers, 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 LGBTQ+ stories and experiences, especially those by or for Black, Indigenous, and people of color. 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. When materials that include reference to topics (such as an LQBTQ+ individuals) are removed from teaching it sends a message that that individual is somehow wrong or unequal.
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. 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 and will likely result in censorship due to teacher and librarian’s fear or confusion over what qualifies as “sexually explicit content.”
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.