As a Virginia resident, I believe that classrooms should be a place where students are free to ask questions, 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 LGBTQ+ stories and experiences, especially those by or for Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Even worse, they could potentially prevent LGBTQ+ youth from accessing life-saving information about themselves. Representation matters, and all Virginia students deserve to learn free from censorship and political interference.
The true intent and impact of Senate Bill 656 is classroom censorship. The term “sexually explicit content” is an extremely broad term that can be used by anyone, based on their personal opinion, to exclude information from a classroom. This will impact all students in the class, not just the child whose parent objects to the information. Censorship would deprive students in Virginia of their freedom of thought and expression, which is foundational in a free nation. For students to grow and learn they must be exposed to new ideas and various viewpoints, bettering their understanding of self and the world in which we live.
More importantly, "Sexually explicit content”, as defined in the Virginia code, can include everything from teaching LGBTQ+ history to excluding the discussion of LGBTQ+ families in family life classes. This is absolutely unacceptable and is the same as Florida’s discriminatory bill restricting the mention of homosexuality.
Almost every family has members that are LGBTQ. Gallup found that more than 7% of U.S. adults identify as something other than straight or heterosexual and this percentage has steadily increased since Gallup first measured LGBT identification in 2012. (https://news.gallup.com/poll/332522/percentage-americans-lgbt.aspx). This means that at least one student in 14 would be deprived of information at school that would allow their family to be treated as normal.
It is for these reasons that I oppose the proposed model policies.