In regard to implementing policy guidance of SB 656, some commenters have written that they either support or do not support SB 656. This is a moot point. The bill has been passed and signed, so whether a writer supports it or not is irrelevant. Comments should now focus on how to keep this law from creating a de facto religious school environment in Virginia public schools.
Recommendation: Make clearer the definition of sexually explicit material in the DOE implementing policy. Specifically, the guidance should include examples of what is NOT considered sexually explicit material. Two people of whatever gender kissing or holding hands, for example, should not be considered “sexual excitement” or “sexual conduct.” References to someone’s gender identity should not be considered “sexual excitement” or “sexual conduct.” Without such clarity, the policy is insufficiently defined to be practicable and leaves schools guessing what they should be notifying parents of.
Recommendation: In the section specifying that alternative instruction be non-punitive, this needs to be more clearly defined as well, lest parents opting out allege that any alternative instruction that is not mainstreamed is, by definition, punitive to their child. A student being socially separated from classmates for alternative instruction is not punitive. A student being placed in another section of a class with similar level of instruction is not punitive. AP and IB classes adhering to the AP and IB curriculums do not have to change course material to accommodate an opting out student; it is not punitive for a student to elect to change to a standard level class to avoid material for which their parent has opted out.