My name is Susan DeLay and I live in Montgomery County, VA. I am concerned about SB 656 and the VDOE’s model policies concerning instructional materials with “sexually explicit content.” This is a broad and vague term that could be applied in such a way to eliminate literature and lessons on people who are LGBTQ+ thereby creating a chilly climate against LGBTQ+ youth and fomenting violence against students through this omission.
A chilly climate is when a person is treated in a way that excludes them and indicates that they are less valued. It dampens their self-esteem, confidence, willingness to participate and aspirations. Because the governor's directive is vague, I fear that the policies you develop will exclude LGBTQ+ experiences or even deny the existence of LGBTQ+ people. By excluding their stories, contributions, and recognition we are creating environments of alienation for LGBTQ+ students and staff that perpetuates feelings of unworthiness. Children should not be subjected to cutting edges of violent discriminatory ideas wielded by some politicians. Schools need to be safe places for all children. They need to see themselves in the stories and lessons presented at school so they know that they belong. I believe that our teachers are fully equipped to do this and should not be gagged in any way from teaching lessons involving LGBTQ+ issues.
Acts of violence would be perpetuated if the school districts make public decisions that support discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. If LGBTQ+ books, historical perspectives, and acknowledgements are banned, we are effectively saying that these people are unacceptable and deviant. It will legitimate the ideas behind the bullying and alienation of LGBTQ+ youth. This is clearly not the role of public education. Please consider this when you are making your policies.
We are charged with the great responsibility of creating respectful environments in our educational institutions that promote justice for all, what that means, and how to create it. All of us are created equal under the law. Our schools are first and foremost in teaching this value. Without that understanding what will happen to our democracy? As you make your policies, I beg you to keep this in mind. What does the future look like if we continue to politicize and ostracize people based on made-up social categories used purely to discriminate against them and gain political clout? Please oppose any policy that would discriminate or condone discrimination against LGBTQ+ or other vulnerable communities.
Thank you for watching out for our children who are open for attack. All children deserve our love, support, attention, recognition, and respect. Let our schools be the places where they learn that freedom and justice are possible even when the world seems like it is against them. Show our youth that they matter and they will do great things.