Agencies | Governor
Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Education
State Board of Education
Regulations Governing Local School Boards and School Divisions [8 VAC 20 ‑ 720]
Action Amendments Regarding Use of Controversial or Sensitive Instructional Materials
Comment Period Ends 1/15/2014
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1/13/14  5:04 pm
Commenter: Christopher L. Denning

I support the Board of Education's amendment to the regulation.

To our honorable members of the board of education:

I am a big fan of the Fairfax Public School System. It is the single biggest reason why I decided to locate my family in this county. It is a district with a reputation for having the best teachers, the best funding, facilities, and materials. It is renowned nationwide for its communication with the student's families, for its openness, and for its tolerance of all.

Based on this reputation I was shocked, and find it appalling that current policy allows and empowers teachers to teach sexually explicit and violent or otherwise obscene material to a captive, detained audience. The current policy does not provide a means to constructively dissent or opt out. Instead, the current policy forcefully detains our children while force feeding them material to which they may morally object, especially sexually explicit and violent material which has been scientifically shown to damage the mind of adults and especially to adolescents with a debilitating addiction much like that of exposure to drugs.

I am generally opposed to this material for anyone, adult or not. In my profession I teach avoidance of exposure to such material as part of a multi faceted approach to promoting resilience and suicide prevention.  I also volunteer and expend much effort through my involvement with the Boy Scouts of America as well as my church in admonishing young men to avoid such material.  It has been my sad experience over the past 18 years of my professional career that the majority of the young men who do not avoid such materials, generally struggle in their relationships, especially in their family and romantic relationships. 

In spite of my opposition to such material, I would never forcefully detain or otherwise punish a person who wished to abstain from the instruction.  Nor would I seek to conduct any such training without parental permission and support.   I consider it hypocrisy to ask that any opposing views be silenced, or removed from the classroom, but I also consider it hypocrisy to mandate, or otherwise any student to listen and participate to damaging and or offensive material. 

It is my deepest conviction that detaining a person and subjecting him or her to offensive material is demeaning and akin to torture. I find it inexcusable, immoral, and incomprehensible that my children or anyone else's children would be subjected to any such material without consent or recourse to opt out in favor of another less offensive activity.  Why would anyone want to oppose such a measure or otherwise deny our teachers just such a tool?  This proposed amendment will not hinder our classrooms or education, but will instead empower and enable a comfortable and challenging learning environment instead of the contra-positive.

I expect that our school system’s reputation of openness and tolerance will rule.  I believe no administrator, no teacher and no parent would want to hinder, obstruct, or otherwise deny a student or their family their free speech or force them to study material which is morally offensive to them, after all, what teacher wants to teach resentful and unwilling students, or to make enemies of parents whom would otherwise be their allies in education?   I believe that most if not all will want to support additional freedom and options, specifically, if offensive violent or sexually explicit materials are to be permitted, then the Board of Education's amendment be adopted.  Moral conscientious objectors should be allowed to abstain from these materials and, instead given an equal opportunity to learn from other equally challenging and wholesome topics and materials without reprisal of any kind.

In my opinion, failure to approve the Board of Education's amendment to the regulation would be an irresponsible way to conduct ourselves. The current policy effectively teaches the student as well as the family that they do not have a voice in the matter; instead, they must subject themselves to forceful attempts at indoctrination.  Such behavior discourages and oppresses differing opinions, critical thinking, and bravery which we should encourage. This kind of intolerance is not the example we want to set for our future leaders and voters. We can and must do better.


Christopher Denning




CommentID: 30256