SB 656 allows parents to make demands of teachers and librarians based on their individual viewpoints over what qualifies as “sexually explicit content,” without taking into account the value of the instructional materials as a whole. This places an undue burden on our educators, who are already experiencing levels of burnout and lack of support never before seen in American public education, and who are professionally trained to teach students about complex concepts and subjects.
SB 656 also keeps students from being exposed to diverse viewpoints and stories. It is censorship. The definition of “sexually explicit” in Virginia’s law is so broad and vague that it could be used to include books by LGBTQ+ authors and about LGBTQ+ experiences that are perfectly age-appropriate and supportive of the curriculum. Kids deserve to hear and read books that mirror their own lived experiences, including our LGBTQ+ kids and their families. To say that a book about two male penguins raising a chick together (for example) is "sexually explicit" is weird and wrong.
This new law will further disrupt the education of young children and keep classrooms from being thriving grounds for free speech and understanding.