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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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7/28/22  12:01 pm
Commenter: David Farmer

Strongly Oppose SB 656 - Lifelong FxCo Resident and former FXCPS student

My name is David Farmer and I live in Springfield, Virginia.

I grew up in Fairfax County, and attended the Fairfax County Public Schools in Herndon and greatly value the quality of the education I received in the 1960s and 1970s. I graduated from High School in Washington County, Virginia.

Apparently the VDOE wants to censure the word "gay" and other such terms. What the VDOE needs to focus on is the elimination of discriminatory and abusive actions within the education system. In my senior year, my English teacher marched into class one day and led a discussion on how to figure out if someone was gay. It was a horrifying, and bullying experience. Eliminating any LGBTQ oriented literature or discussions in schools amounts to nothing less than bullying and discriminating against a minority, and will open up to many lawsuits against the State for State-sanctioned discrimination. If I had my life to live over agian, I would have sued my English teacher and the State for what I experienced.

This State can not accept discrimation. And all the supposed panic is anchored in creating a discriminatory environment in our schools. 

The VDOE's model policies represent an ostrich strategy and an attempt to pretend that LGBTQ people do not exist, and an approach that will be damaging to countless individuals. As a gay man, I wish there had been some information in the public schools and libraries that would have helped me better understand my situation (rather than a bullying English teacher). Such information does not have to be sexually explicit, and and its ridiculous to infer that just using the word "gay" is sexually explicit, just like the word "straight" is not sexually explicit. The VDOE policies must be clear about what "sexually explicit" means, and the definition should apply to all materials, and the policy should not be used to cull out all references to LGBTQ literature.

The VDOE’s model policies concerning instructional materials with “sexually explicit content,” is a broadly vague term that could be applied to important works of literature like Beloved by Toni Morrison or Ulysses by James Joyce. 

As a Virginia resident, I believe that classrooms should be a place where students are 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.

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.

Thanks for all of your work supporting Virginia's LGBTQ+ community! Please let me know if you have any questions.

CommentID: 124119