A Virginia bill (pdf) that requires schools to notify parents of sexually explicit content instructional materials and allows parents to review such content is heading to the desk of Gov. Glenn Youngkin, fulfilling one of his key campaign promises.
If signed into law, the bill, which passed the state House on Feb. 28 and the senate on Feb. 9, would make Virginia the first in the nation to adopt a statewide measure for reviewing sexually explicit material in schools instead of leaving the decision up to local school administrators and school boards.
Youngkin, in a written statement to the Washington Post, said: “The passage of this bill, signals to schools that parents will not be silenced. Notifying parents is just commonsense, and I look forward to signing it when it reaches my desk.”
The measure came amid growing grassroots efforts in Virginia and other states campaigning against sexualized content in school and classroom libraries.
The legislation requires the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to develop a model policy to which school boards must adhere. In addition, school boards have the discretion to adopt more comprehensive measures than the model policy.
The VDOE model policy, due by July 31, 2022, is to include provisions to require schools to provide “an alternative, nonexplicit instructional material, and related academic activities to any student whose parent so requests.” School boards are required to adopt the related policies no later than Jan. 1, 2023.
The bill defines “sexually explicit content” by reference to a section in the Virginia code.
State Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico), author of the bill, called the passing of the bill “a win for parents” in her tweet on March 1.
Some parents have welcomed the measure, but say more needs to be done about sexually-explicit content found in school bookshelves.
“It’s good as a first step, but it doesn’t address books on shelves at school libraries, only teacher-given class assignments,” Fairfax County mother Stacy Langton told The Epoch Times.
In September, Langton protested the inclusion of books containing sexually exclusion in school libraries at a school board meeting. Her speech went viral, thrusting the issue, dubbed by some parents as “porn books,” into the national spotlight.
Natassia Grover, a mother in neighboring Loudoun County in northern Virginia, agreed that while the new code was “decent,” it did nothing to close the “loophole” concerning sexualized content that features in materials that don’t constitute instructional materials.
“Books on classroom shelves and in school libraries can and do continue to contain pornographic images and sexually explicit language and erotica, and there is nothing parents can do to stop their children from accessing it,” Grover told The Epoch Times.
Grover co-founded the nonprofit organization Parent and Child Loudoun (PACL) in 2018 to address concerns about sexually explicit content in public schools.
On Jan. 27, a Virginia Senate committee blocked legislation that would require parental consent for students to check out sexually explicit books from school libraries. Virginia Senate is under Democratic control, whereas Republicans hold the majority in the House.
Anne Miller, another mother in Loudoun County, said the governor kept his promises to parents and voters in Virginia. “Governor Youngkin and his Administration are opening school doors back up to parents that have been kept out and in the dark for far too long,” she told The Epoch Times. “It is a great day for the children of Virginia!”
The new bill also highlighted that it was not enacting censorship measures, an allegation made by critics of the measure. “The provisions of this act shall not be construed as requiring or providing for the censoring of books in public elementary and secondary schools,” it stated.
Similar legislation under review in the Tennessee legislature includes school library materials in the scope of the bill, and would hold public school employees criminally liable for possessing obscene materials harmful to minors on school premises.