I do not support the VDOE’s model policies concerning instructional materials with “sexually explicit content,” a term that could be used to ban great works of literature long part of classroom curriculum such as Beloved by Toni Morrison or Ulysses by James Joyce. Moreover, and as it important, it could be used informally to further stigmatize and discriminate against students who don't fit the cisgender mold.
As a Virginia resident, 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. 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.
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.”
Students in the Commonwealth deserve to grow into brave, courageous people who are free to be themselves without apology and to value diversity and inclusion. We are all better off when young people are encouraged to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion.