I strongly oppose SB 656 and the policies it models as currently stated.
The term, "sexually explicit content", is too broadly defined and leaves too much for individual interpretation. My concern is the unintended consequences of such a broad definition. What is considered sexually explicit behavior? This leaves too much room for misguided interpretation.
Classrooms are a place for learning, questioning, and discussing new ideas and various viewpoints. A place where students can ask questions and learn to agree or disagree with grace and respect. The proposed model policies can undo all the work that has been completed to date to make people feel included, accepted as humans, while diminishing the lines between “Us” and “Them.” It has the potential to shift us back to a time when school was “unsafe” for some of our most vulnerable population. We, as a nation, may disagree on views and personal choices. And yet, our nation is built on this very freedom to choose our own paths while learning to live respectfully with each other. Having watched my own family strengthen and expand in their awareness of self and others over the past ten years has been a blessing. It has been something my 94 year old mother-in-law has declared being one of the most powerful gifts she has lived to witness. She and a number of relatives and friends in their late 50s and older had strong views about race, sexuality, one religion etc. Through watching her grandchildren and great grandchildren begin living different lives and being more open about their choices and struggles, she and others shifted their mindsets one at a time. They are more loving and accepting of these young people’s personal choices in friends, spouses, partners, and lifestyle choices. We all have learned to open our minds and let go of artificial barriers. I am happy to say that our family members are much closer today and more supportive of each other as we have normalized these differences. One person at a time.
Not only are parents and children invaluable teachers, so are the classroom teachers, other students, and younger adults. Youth is a vulnerable age where people are struggling with their own identify and acceptance of self. As one person said “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. The proposed model policies could 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.”” This ambiguity will send us backwards in our progress of a human race.
Representation matters, and all Virginia students deserve to learn free from censorship and political interference. Virginia students deserve to grow up into brave, courageous people who value diversity and inclusion. Virginians should not being applying pressure on them to become something they are not, rather, to learn to see the human side of individuals and respect their choices.
It is for these reasons that I oppose SB 656 as it is currently stands.