My name is Robert Fasick and I live in Springfield, Virginia.
I am perplexed and very concerned about the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies concerning instructional materials with “sexually explicit content.” “Sexually explicit content” is extremely broad and will be interpreted in widely disparate ways throughout the Commonwealth. The logical result of implementing policy using such vague terms is that where there are questions within jurisdictions about what is or is not “sexually explicit” material, the jurisdiction will no doubt err on the side of caution, and thereby remove or restrict from use material that should be incorporated in a comprehensive education. This narrows the scope of education, and necessarily does not provide any opportunity to engage, discuss and consider much of what is a significant part of our world.
Students should feel comfortable and 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. I would suggest that, in today’s highly charged and volatile social climate, even the suggestion of the use of what might be termed, by some, the “wrong pronouns” could be considered sexually explicit. That, to me, is completely unacceptable, but I can see where the implementation of this policy could lead some to this point!
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.