My name is Rebecca and I live in Richmond, Virginia.
I am writing to express my opposition to SB 656 and my serious concerns about VDOE’s model policies concerning instructional materials with “sexually explicit content”. I am a parent to two elementary age children who are enrolled in the Richmond Public School system and our family is part of the diverse community that is the city of Richmond.
It is my strong belief that children attend school not just to learn math & reading, but also to be exposed to a variety of people & ideas and to be taught how to develop their own critical thinking skills & opinions. This policy has the potential to create classrooms where students are not free to ask questions, explore new ideas, or learn about diverse viewpoints. 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, has the potential to encourage narrow mindedness. Even worse, the proposed policies could 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.”
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.