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 Ended on 1/15/2014
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12/19/13  2:51 pm
Commenter: Jennifer Ashby, NBCT

Changes to the policy are too subjective to work

My concern about this change to the policy is the vague phrase about notification of "sensitive" materials.  After working as a school librarian for 22 years I have found that there is quite a range of topics and phrases that people find offensive and it is impossible to anticipate any challenge.  During my career I have had a number of books returned by parents claiming that the title is inappropriate.  In a few cases the book has a great deal of harsh language - something that many people would feel is too edgy for teens.  But many more of the objections are about words or scenes that many people wouldn't find questionable.  One example of this is a book that was returned by a parent because it described a character as being full of "black box and vinegar" which she had highlighted as being obscene.  I would be surprised if more than a handful of people would have labeled this book as one containing sensitive subjects or language but for this one parent, it was objectionable.  With those types of examples in mind I think it would be impossible to label titles that would be problematic since that standard varies from person to person.  And if a book wasn't labeled in advance but a parent objected to it, could that lead to lawsuits or charges of schools failing to do their due diligence?  Parents have always had the option of reviewing course materials and asking for substitutions so this policy change seems unnecessary and possibly harmful to public schools.

CommentID: 29735