This model policy is no model of anything and is entirely unnecessary. It is the policy of bigots and homophobes. VA Schools already provide parents with information about various programs their children are being exposed to and have the option of opting out of a particular program. As the parent of an FCPS educated child, I had plenty of opportunities to opt my child out of certain curricula. I chose not to opt out and instead discussed the programs with my child afterwards. I was proud of how seriously he took the material and that he realized it was important.
The whole point of Senate Bill 656 is classroom censorship. The term “sexually explicit content” is an extremely broad term that anyone can use to exclude information from being taught in a classroom based solely on personal opinion. Exclusion of information will affect all the children in that classroom, so the objector(s) has an outsized effect on curriculum choice - rule of the minority. This blatant censorship not only deprives Virginia students of their rights of freedom of thought and expression, but also renders them less able to learn critical thought and judgment skills. What kind of country are we if we are afraid that our students might learn something? The purpose of education is for students to grow and learn. This requires exposure to a variety of ideas and views. More information and accurate true information will enable students of all ages to open their minds to themselves, their peers and society as a whole. Ignorance is the price of censorship.
While everyone is entitled to their personal opinion, a classroom of children should not have their learning opportunities limited based on a personal opinion. Curriculum writing is a science; educators and administrators have years of specialized training and often multiple degrees. Dismissing their expertise by fashioning curricula limited by a personal opinion applying a vague term is nonsensical. It is demeaning and insulting to teachers and administrators.
Vague terms such as "sexually explicit content" will set teachers and librarians up for confusion and create fear. In legal terms, it will have a chilling effect on education. Education with blinders on is not education - it is indoctrination. One should not fear learning more - one should fear not learning.
There is no question that some will take the opportunity to apply the most extreme standards. Cherry-picking parts of a play or movie or a book out of their context as sexually explicit will absolutely result in the removal of important classic media or literature from a class' curriculum. Works that have been used by teachers for decades could be banned without appreciating the benefit of the material to the student for that particular lesson. Labeling books and other materials as having “sexually explicit content” without context or understanding of the materials severely limits a teachers’ ability to present varied experiences and perspectives. How far will this go? Will Virginia's school children be prohibited from viewing the paintings and sculptures of the great masters because depicting the nude human body is "sexually explicit material"?
It is unacceptable that government would take action to diminish the existence of LGBTQ+ children, families and information. This is entirely counter to the values on which our country is based. This is a civil rights issue. Disabling children from learning about LGBTQ+ families in family life classes is nothing less than unconstitutional. Removing the teaching of LGBTQ+ history is nothing less than whitewashing. No one ever became a lesbian from simply learning that some families have two mommies.
The purpose of education is to broaden students fund of knowledge and their perspective on their community and the world around them. Exposure to different people and cultures makes students more able to understand and navigate their immediate world and the larger world. Less education, less understanding builds walls between people. If we really want to better understand each other and live peacefully together, appreciating what each individual brings to the table, then we can't tolerate censorship.
My ancestors came to this country over 100 years ago fleeing persecution and death. My grandmother and mother recognized the value of public education and worked hard to ensure that their offspring took full advantage of all educational opportunities. They understood and told us many times that education was the key to all successes. Handicapping educators is anathema to their vision of American freedom.