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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1/14/14  1:34 pm
Commenter: Beth Andersen

Support teachers, not this regulation

As a high school teacher with 17 years of experience teaching primarily honors and AP courses, I implore you to reject this regulation and instead, to trust the professional judgment of the teachers and localities to which the education of the Commonwealth's children is entrusted. Parental oversight is important, but when taken to extremes (particularly as students mature) can be dangerous to the cognitive and moral development of students who must be encouraged and EMPOWERED to consider and wrestle with sensitive issues and subject matter.   We, as teachers, are striving not only to fill up students with facts, but to help them learn to think critically about issues that have shaped and that they will encounter in the world they are inheriting.   OFTEN those issues are ugly or violent or painful, but if students are taught to exchange ideas maturely and thoughtfully within the safety of the classroom where those subjects can be presented appropriately and with sensitivity, how much better than their encountering these ideas through movies, or video games, or with their peers when they've had little to no preparation or instruction about context or circumstances or consequences?   The students who are reading material that might be deemed "sensitive" are typically two to three years away from the harsh and unyielding reality of college or the workplace where a parent's approval is not only unnecessary, but unwelcome.  By guiding students through difficult texts, we give them the advantage of preparation and EDUCATION to arm them against the societal enemies of ignorance and prejudice that continue to plague us in the 21st century.

Rather than strapping teachers to unfair regulations that demand EVEN MORE paperwork and uncompensated time and preparation, please at least consider less ambiguous language and fairer guidelines rather than encouraging censorship.  Even better, reject this proposal altogether and leave oversight to localities.  Our system has been very successful in requiring a letter to be sent home at the first of the year listing all works covered in the class that are not included in the community-vetted textbook.  Parents have the opportunity to sign off on these supplemental texts, and if there is a question about any of the material, they can request an alternative reading assignment with no penalty to the individual student.  This has been a very effective way of handling individual concerns without tying the hands of the teacher or infringing on the educational rights and access of other students.  Let us learn from the warnings of Orwell and Bradbury and Twain and Walker and Morrison rather than refusing to hear their voices at all.  Our students deserve better than this proposal.

CommentID: 30454