Virginia’s Senate voted Wednesday on a bipartisan basis to pass Republican-sponsored legislation directing the Department of Education to develop guidelines for school boards to notify parents when their children are assigned to read books with sexually explicit material. It passed 20-18.
Democrats say it’s a step toward book banning and censorship targeting a particular set of books.
"It's not Chaucer; it's not Shakespeare,” said Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Richmond. “Invariably, it is the writing of Black and brown authors. We've seen this debate take place publicly in the writings, particularly recently, of Toni Morrison."
Republicans say it is a commonsense way to give parents a say in their kids' education. They say the content the bill classifies as explicit is the same sexual content that's already banned on state employees’ computers.
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"This is not a matter of censorship,” said Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County. “This is a matter of notification."
The bill would require schools to establish a system of notifying parents of the material ahead of time and give the parents an opportunity to review it and sign off on it.
Stacy Langton, who has been in a fight with Fairfax County Public Schools since speaking at a school board meeting last fall, says this is a step in the right direction but doesn't feel it's enough.
“This bill is not addressing the presence of adult books with sexually explicit themes or materials in the libraries,” she said. “It's not helping in that regard at all."
The bill now moves to the House of Delegates as another Republican effort to give more educational control to parents.
A similar bill previously passed the legislature but was vetoed by then Gov. Terry McAuliffe.