To use Spotsylvania's school communication portal, parents must decide kids' ‘explicit material' access in libraries

Why some parents think the question is really designed to prop up continued efforts to ban books there

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Some parents in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, are expressing anger and surprise over a new requirement to answer a question about sexually explicit books in order to access online school information. The way the question is phrased is only adding to their outrage.

Maria Garcia, a parent and former Spotsylvania teacher, was logging on to the portal, called ParentVue, on Wednesday night to finish online registration for her kids when she suddenly hit a wall, forced to answer a question.

Here’s how the school district phrased it:

  • "Yes, I want my child to have access to sexually explicit content in the school libraries, OR
  • No, I do not want my child to have access to sexually explicit content in the school libraries."

Garcia told News4, "I was immediately angry. Because because we've had these issues with book bans in my county."

When her high schoolers got a look, she says they asked her, "'What are you supposed to say? Because if you say yes, it's gonna make you seem like you're a bad parent. And if you say no, then there's going to be like, 'Oh, this is why we're doing book bans.''"

Garcia is also angry because if parents don't answer at all, they're blocked from using ParentVue, the main communication tool to access everything from bus schedules to a child's grades.

Spotsylvania County Public Schools (SCPS) made national headlines in late 2021, when several conservative board members suggested banning — or even burning — certain school library books, most with LGBTQ+ themes. Since then, more than a dozen books have been pulled from the shelves.

School officials say superintendent Mark Taylor was unavailable for an interview Friday, but he sent messages to parents explaining why the questions are being asked, writing in part: "With nearly 400,000 volumes in our school libraries, we want to be vigilant about protecting the wishes of all SCPS parents," adding, "Your decisions will help guide policy and ensure we respect your concerns and preferences."

Taylor wrote that the library's online book checkout system will track the students whose parents have denied access to books with sexually explicit content.

However, no definition or parameters have been provided for which books are considered sexually explicit. There is also no list available showing which books would be prohibited for students who are denied access.

"I'm hoping that they that they will remove this question," said Garcia, who is gathering signatures on a petition on "If they — I think that if they really wanted to, they could make this question optional."

School board members in the minority are also opposing the question requirement. Board member Nicole Cole sent a letter to the superintendent demanding he remove the requirement, along with a cease and desist letter.

"Student information should not be held hostage because they have to answer that question in the way that they have posted," Cole said.

Cole also suggests it could be illegal to block parents from accessing their students' records.

Garcia says she's not going to answer the question.

Garcia and Cole say there is a possible workaround. Parents can use StudentVue to access information if their kids will share their passwords.

Back in March, Spotsylvania's school superintendent ordered high school librarians to pull 14 titles off shelves. The list included two Toni Morrison novels and several books telling the stories of LGBTQ+ people, people of color and those struggling with mental illness.

NBC Washington took a close look at the content of those books earlier this year.

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