Agencies | Governor
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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8/1/22  10:14 pm
Commenter: Caroline Gergel

OPPOSE proposed Virginia Department of Education Model Polices for Sexually Explicit Materials

My name is Caroline Gergel and I live in Fairfax Station, VA. I am a retired biology teacher who has been responsible for presenting the 9th grade Family Life Education unit over many years.  I know, first hand, how important it is to create a safe learning environment for all students, particularly when classroom instruction could make some students feel uncomfortable or dismissed. Students should feel safe to present their true selves at all times during the school day. Teachers and curriculum should enhance all students' sense of safety and inclusion.

I have serious concerns about VDOEs model policies concerning instructional materials including "sexually explicit content", a broadly vague term that could be applied not only to FLE education but also to important works of literature like Beloved by Toni Morrison or Ulysses by James Joyce.

As a Virginia resident, a parent and as a retired teacher, I strongly believe that the classroom should be a place where students feel free to ask questions, express themselves openly, 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 LGTBQ+ stories and experiences, especially those by or for Black, Indigenous and people of color. Even worse, they could potentially prevent LGTBQ+ 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 educational experts have years of experience and are well equipped to introduce diverse and sometimes difficult subjects into the classroom while mitigating the possible harm or 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 educators to do their job and will likely result in censorship due to teachers' or librarians' 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.

CommentID: 124465