As a Virginia resident and parent of a young child, I am deeply concerned about the VDoE's model policies regarding "sexually explicit content" which is vague terminology to begin with.
For many kids, classrooms are one of the only places where they are encouraged to learn about diverse viewpoints, ask questions, and explore new ideas. This is the way we all learn to be more compassionate in life, and respectful of others. We don't have to agree with other people's opinions or values, but without learning that other perspectives and experiences exist, we don't even have the capacity to listen to one another.
Yes, parents should be able to parent their child how they'd like to, but teachers, librarians and other educational specialists exist in order to support the overall development of a child. In fact, most of them are deeply devoted to this and trained with years of experience to put the child's best interests first and know how to mitigate the difficult emotions and questions that certain topics may bring up. Restricting access to important works of literature, especially those written by Black, Indigenous, and people of color or those identifying as LGBTQ+ could be extremely damaging. It's crucial for growing kids to see themselves represented in literature in these various forms and can be life-saving for those who are not supported elsewhere and contemplating suicide due to feeling so lost and unaccepted and fearful of who to turn to.
The proposed model policies would make it harder for educators to do their job and will likely result in censorship due to teachers' and 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, without political interference in their educational rights. Educators also deserve to do the job they trained for and that so many of us parents trust in them to do without having to fear for how their decisions will be interpreted. We are all better off when young people - and all people for that matter - are encouraged to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion.
It is for these reasons that I oppose the proposed model policies.