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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8/3/22  1:28 pm
Commenter: Concerned parent

Breaking News - Parents Already Have Notification Rights

Virginia public schools teach a Family Life Education (FLE) program, which starts in kindergarten and continues through grade 12. There are SOL’s for each grade. Parents have the right by Virginia law, since the inception of the program in 1989, to review that entire curriculum and opt-out their child from any lessons in the program. Other commenters here do not seem to be aware of this. So, if you don’t want your child being exposed to this information, just opt them out. But at least find out what it’s all about before you do. 

Ok, so knowing that parents can already opt-out of any FLE instruction, including that about human sexuality, why is this new policy needed? At a minimum, why doesn’t this policy mention the FLE program and the existing robust parental notification and opt-out provisions? Is this supplanting that notification and opt-out process or expanding upon it? I feel as if the policy writers are attempting to obscure the fact that parents ALREADY have the right to control the exposure of their children to instruction about sexuality. I believe the legislation was disingenuous and took advantage of the lack of awareness by a large portion of the population as to the existing FLE program and its longstanding policies of parental involvement, review of all materials, and consent. 

Given that some policy is going to be required to meet the requirement of the law, let’s make some improvements:

  1. The Virginia Code describing “explicit sexual content” seems to address sexual activities that would be rarely, if ever, found in K-12 instructional materials and books. The description sounds like pornography and I reject even the suggestion that librarians are purchasing pornography for use in the schools. However, a problem arises if one were to interpret the definition quite narrowly to include any instructional content that offered even a hint of sexual interest or activity (ie. “Sexual excitement” could be interpreted many different ways). The latitude given to school divisions to go beyond the model guidance could mean vastly different interpretations and policies developed around the Commonwealth.  This needs to be addressed.

  2. Many of the commenters here are concerned that school divisions may expand upon this policy to disallow any classroom conversation, however innocuous, that refers to sexual identity or sexual preferences. I share that concern and believe it can get even worse. The school board in Orange County has already “shown its hand” with a draft resolution (not yet adopted after a huge outcry in opposition) that would require teachers and administrators who become aware that a student is self-identifying as something other than the schools definition of “the norm” to inform the parents and offer health care information. “Outing your students” should not be in the job description for any teacher. So, that school board resolution goes well beyond the draft model policy shown here, but seems to be allowable under this draft. That is a big problem and an open door to “don’t say gay” policies.

  3. The policy states that "Library materials are considered instructional materials when used (i) for completion of an assignment, or (ii) as part of an academic or extracurricular educational program." Let’s be more specific and state this policy does not and should not cover the books purchased for the school libraries that are intended for children to check out and read on their own. Librarians are professionals who are trained and knowledgeable about children’s literature and can be relied upon to make informed and appropriate book recommendations to students. The actual legislation makes the point that this Act “is not intended to be construed as requiring or providing for the censoring of books in public elementary and public schools.” But that is not in the model policy and it needs to be.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

CommentID: 124807