I object to a lot of what is written in this model policy, but I especially object to including school library materials in any definition of “instructional materials”. School library materials and classroom library materials are CHOICE reading materials, and although students may choose to use them in certain assignments, they should not be included in this policy at all. Student self-selected materials, even those used for assignments, regardless of the source (school library, classroom library, public library, home, borrowed from a friend) should be explicitly EXCLUDED from any definition of instructional materials. Instructional materials should only include specific materials that students are required to use for instruction, not materials that they choose to use for instruction. In the case Island Trees Sch. Dist. v. Pico by Pico, 457 U.S. 853, it affirmed the first amendment rights of secondary school students to free access to information in school libraries. It stated that while local school boards, “might rightfully claim absolute discretion in matters of curriculum by reliance upon their duty to inculcate community values in schools, petitioners' reliance upon that duty is misplaced where they attempt to extend their claim of absolute discretion beyond the compulsory environment of the classroom into the school library and the regime of voluntary inquiry that there holds sway.” Voluntary choice materials are not instructional materials and that is the whole purpose of both classroom libraries and school libraries, to provide access to voluntary choice reading materials which a student may choose to use for independent reading or research assignments or may choose to just read for fun or to pursue a personal interest.
Parents already have the right to request information from their minor child’s school about what books are on their child’s library record from the school any time they want due to FERPA if their child attends a public school, and already have the right to request that their child’s ability to check out from the school library be limited if they do not wish for their child to check out books from the school library. I’m certain any classroom teacher as well would be willing to work with parents to limit their child’s ability to borrow from classroom libraries if requested by the parents. There are also already school board policies in place in pretty much every school district in Virginia to give parents the ability to request reconsideration of any instructional or library materials, and those materials get reviewed as per those policies. For all these reasons, library materials should not be included in this model policy as instructional materials.
There is also concern that materials containing LGBTQ+ topics would be interpreted as “sexually explicit”, so LGBTQ+ topics should be explicitly stated as EXCLUDED from the definition of sexually explicit in any model policies provided. The existence of gay and transgender people in instructional materials should not require parental notification. Gay and transgender people exist in the world and in Virginia schools and their existence reflected in instructional materials should not be of note any more than the existence of straight or cisgender people in instructional materials.