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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1/15/14  11:19 pm
Commenter: Sue Lawrence, Teacher, parent

Reject this ammendment

While the language of this proposal seems reasonable enough, I urge you to reject this amendment for several reasons.

Firstly, who determines what is sensitive or controversial material?  In the proposed legislation this would be the parent, not the School Board, or the teacher.  Shakespeare touches on many controversial subjects yet his works are widely accepted as appropriate for high school students.  There are many other examples that classic literature which institutions of high learning expect students to have read and analyzed prior to their entrance into college.  We provide a great disservice to the student by not providing them with appropriate instruction in classic literature, such as  Night, Of Mice and Men, The Great Gatsby, Their Eyes Were Watching God, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Crucible, Fahrenheit 451 or Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.  Under the current language of this proposal, these works of classic literature would be censored.  Can there be an alternate selection for some of these works?  Not in all cases. 

The other issue is that most textbooks contain literary material that some parents consider, "controversial or sensitive."  Are local education authorities to find an alternate textbook that said parent deems appropriate?  Will  there be state funding to provide replacements?  I think not.

In the case of AP literature courses, they often delve into what some parents may deem "sensitive."  The course is designed as a college class and as such the curriculum and literature are developed not by the local education authority but by the College Board.  Parents have the opportunity to review the curriculum well in advance before making the decision to allow their student to participate in this class.  Often there is no substitute assignment equivalent.

Finally, if a parent truly feels the curriculum is offensive and inappropriate for their child, would it not be more appropriate to discuss the matter with the instructor and/or principal  rather than to create more unfunded mandates that teachers have to provide?  This issue should be resolved at the local level.   Parent's concerns should be handled locally on a case by case basis.  While we make every effort to let parents know what our proposed study will be within the course syllabus, teachers should not be expected to omit a work of literature because one parent finds it offensive.

CommentID: 30914