I'm very concerned about the language in SB656. Like any parent, I obviously do not want my children exposed to sexually explicit content before they are developmentally ready. However, I'm also unaware of any actual instance of explicit content being included in educational curriculum in our state. The problem that this bill aims to address doesn't appear to exist, but it does seem to create the potential to cause many new problems.
The definition of sexually explicit content in Section 2.2-2827 of the Virginia Code is vague. While this is perfectly reasonable in restricting what's viewed on state-owned computers, it has the potential to create lots of problems in an educational setting. Many classic works of literature that have been included in educational curriculum would meet that definition, including works by Shakespeare, James Joyce, Toni Morrison, and more. Including that material in schools never caused any controversy, so it seems clear that concerns about "sexually explicit" material in schools is largely because of more work by LGBTQ authors being included. No book is going to turn a kid gay or straight, and I applaud efforts by teachers who want to make sure that students can see themselves and their families in the books they are reading.
My biggest concern with this bill is that it is yet another affront on our teachers. Teachers have always had an incredibly challenging and underappreciated job, and in recent years we have asked them to upend their teaching jobs and in some cases risk their lives during a pandemic. Now we're following that up with accusing them (with no evidence whatsoever) of pushing pornographic material on kids? Is it any wonder so many teachers are leaving the profession? I worry that this bill will be weaponized against teachers, particularly those who try and support LGBTQ kids by including material that shows LGBTQ characters and families. These teachers should be encouraged and applauded, not criticized and accused of perversion. I worry that in the long run, bills like this will harm ALL of our kids by pushing teachers out of the profession, leaving our schools understaffed and unsupported.