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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8/3/22  1:16 pm
Commenter: Dr. Todd Gathje, The Family Foundation

Support for Policies that Protect the Fundamental Rights of Parents

On behalf of The Family Foundation, I wish to express our support for the Model Policies for Sexually Explicit Materials (“model policies”), which seek to create a healthy and safe learning environment for all students, ensure that parents have oversight of highly sensitive materials being presented to their child, and strengthen the ability of parents to care for and nurture their child.


The law in Virginia clearly affirms the primacy of parents’ authority in Va. Code § 1-240.1, which states that “A parent has a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of the parent’s child.” Furthermore, in 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the rights of parents in Troxel v. Granville when it held that “the liberty interest….of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by the Court.”

Unlike the Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students published by VDOE under the Northam Administration in 2021, which violate the legal rights and responsibilities of parents,
these proposed model policies acknowledge that parents do in fact have the fundamental responsibility to make decisions about their child’s education and ensure that certain materials do not violate their core family values.  They establish criteria for identifying sexually explicit materials, notifying parents of such materials, and providing alternative education materials.


In compliance with Va. Code § 1-240.1 and various court decisions, these proposed policies outline some important definitions and procedures that will provide necessary direction for local public school divisions as they implement their own policies. Below are some examples of the helpful guidance.

  1. The model policies provide helpful definitions for “sexually explicit content” that is based on existing state law, as well as what constitutes “instructional materials” (Definitions, pp.5-6 and Sample Policy, p. 9).

This establishes helpful criteria for identifying hypersexualized material and the various modes by which it may be shown to students.  In order for teachers and administrators to assess the age appropriateness of materials, this definition provides a much needed guidance for consistent school policies.

Quite helpfully, the definition for instructional material under this policy clarifies that printed or electronic materials, including library materials, being used to complete a class assignment or extracurricular project are subject to parental notification.

  1. The model policies prioritize parents’ involvement in their child’s education, including the decision about whether the use of sexually explicit content in instructional materials is appropriate for their child and aligns with their faith and family values. (Introduction, p. 6)

This standard is consistent with the federal Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, 20 USC § 1232 H, which “provides for the right of a parent of a student to inspect, upon the request of the parent, any instructional material used as part of the educational curriculum for the student.”

  1. The model policies rightly emphasize the importance of protecting a child’s innocence and the right of a parent to choose for their child “non-explicit instructional content and related academic activities.” (Introduction, p. 6)

Children need a time of innocence that allows them to establish a healthy development. When a child’s innocence is violated, the outcome can involve significant damage to that child’s emotions and behavior that have severe long-term effects.  These policies would provide much needed safeguards for that innocence.

  1. The model policies require parents to be afforded sufficient time (at least 30 days) to be notified of any potentially sexually explicit material, to review the material, and then be afforded alternative educational materials. (Sample Policy, p. 10)

Parents need a reasonable time frame to review and discuss at home with family members whether instructional materials that contain sexually explicit content are appropriate for their child, and schools must provide them with as much time as reasonably necessary to review the materials.

  1. In addition to allowing parents to review the education materials, another critical component of the model policies is requiring principals to publish and maintain a current list of instructional materials with sexually explicit content for each grade and subject on the school’s public website. (Sample Policy, p. 10)

While all the foregoing provisions support the fundamental rights of parents to review what is being taught to their child, we strongly believe there are certain actions that these model policies must require every school divisions to follow. These include:


  • Requiring a more specific identification and evaluation process that includes who is part of the review process (faculty, parents and principals).
  • Requiring teachers to report all sexually explicit materials to the appropriate administrator.
  • Clarifying that principals are responsible for identifying and maintaining a list of sexually explicit materials that could potentially be used for class assignments.
  • Prohibiting social media platforms and other applications on school-issued devices, such as YouTube, where a student can easily access sexually explicit material.
  • In addition to the titles of the material, teachers must add a purpose and description for each instructional material deemed sexually explicit, as well as for the course objectives, topics, and goals for learning in using the material.
  • Requiring a standard opt-out procedure with a model opt-out form for parents.


We ask the VDOE to consider these suggestions as a way of ensuring more uniformity of compliance among the many school districts.  We appreciate the work of VDOE in producing these model policies to protect the privacy and safety of all children and respect the fundamental right of parents.

CommentID: 124804