Searching, for Justice

The Verdict

Searching, for Justice

The Verdict

Searching, for Justice

The Verdict

What is the Future of Virginia Education?

A+photo%2C+with+the+book+Scott+Pilgrim+laying+in+front%2C+with+a+sticky+note+saying+references+sexual+content%3B+behind+it+are+This+Book+Is+Gay+by+Juno+Dawson%2C+with+Discusses+reproduction%2C+The+Circle+by+Dave+Eggers%2C+noted+with+Discusses+and+depicts+sexual+content%2C+How+to+tell+if+you+cat+is+plotting+to+kill+you%2C+with+the+note+discusses+and+depicts+reproductive+parts%2C+and+Walter+Isaacsons+Steve+Jobs+biography%2C+noted+with+Contains+foul%2C+sexual+profanity.
Photo by Blue Linden, books included are Volume one of Scott Pilgrim, The Circle, This Book Is Gay, How To Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting To Kill You, and the Steve Jobs Biography.

Senate Bill 656, known as the sexual content law, passed on March 2nd of 2022, mandat­ing parental noti­fi­ca­tion of any sexu­ally explicit content in instruc­tional mate­r­ial and provid­ing alter­na­tive, non explicit mate­r­ial to any student whose parent so requests. Schools across the coun­try have been employ­ing censor­ship of books and content in educa­tional curricu­lums. Florida has recently passed laws like the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill and the “Stop W.O.K.E Act”, provok­ing mass removal of books regard­ing racism, gender and sexual iden­tity to suppos­edly prevent students from feel­ing guilt or anguish. In Virginia,  gover­nor Youngkin campaigned on elim­i­nat­ing divi­sive concepts like race in school educa­tion for the same ratio­nale of shel­ter­ing students from nega­tive trig­gers. Is Virginia begin­ning to follow Florida’s lead? 

Accord­ing to the law, sexu­ally explicit content is defined as “(i) any descrip­tion of or (ii) any picture, photo­graph, draw­ing, motion picture film, digi­tal image or simi­lar visual repre­sen­ta­tion depict­ing sexual bestial­ity, a lewd exhi­bi­tion of nudity, as nudity is defined in § 18.2−390, sexual excite­ment, sexual conduct or sado­masochis­tic abuse, as also defined in § 18.2−390, coprophilia, urophilia, or fetishism.” In accor­dance with the law, teach­ers must converse and deter­mine which parts of their instruc­tional mate­r­ial might have sexu­ally explicit content, flag these areas, and report them to the county. However, “The defi­n­i­tion of ‘sexu­ally explicit’ in Virginia’s law is so broad and vague that it could include books by LGBTQ+ authors and about LGBTQ+ expe­ri­ences.” (ACLUVA) Head of the English Depart­ment at Justice High School, Alison Mili­tano adds to this point saying “it’s not clear as to what [sexu­ally explicit] means…so we had to have many conver­sa­tions as to what counted as so.”

Many have argued that the law infringes on the abil­ity to teach by putting unnec­es­sary labor on teach­ers who have already been trained to teach complex subjects (XTRA). “Fair­fax already has a solid­i­fied system for vetting books: you have to have parent read­ers, you have to provide ratio­nale for why poten­tially prob­lem­atic content is impor­tant to teach…[the recent law] just seems like an extra step,” said Militano. 

The law is also argued to hinder free speech and dialogue, creat­ing a close-minded educa­tion: “This law has the poten­tial of elim­i­nat­ing discus­sions of race, culture, sexual orien­ta­tion, gender iden­tity, and how they inter­sect in the teach­ing of history, liter­a­ture, and health in our schools.” (ACLUVA) Senior Timo­thy Allen feels simi­lar about the policy’s poten­tial, “I don’t think it’s bad to be aware of when there is content that some may find objec­tion­able, but open­ing the door for that to be removed from every­one’s educa­tion is some­thing I whole­heart­edly disagree with,” said Allen. “I don’t believe we should be upend­ing our educa­tion and remov­ing the auton­omy of teach­ers to conform to the will of a few overly concerned parents.”

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About the Contributor
Alessandra Simmons-Robles, Managing Editor
Alessandra Simmons-Robles is a senior and has been a member of 'The Verdict' for three years. She is passionate about learning and challenging social issues through writing and advocacy. In journalism, she writes articles on local issues and is thrilled when interviewing individuals about their opinions and experiences. Outside of the academic setting, she enjoys reading in her free time, her current read being “A Secret History” by Donna Tartt.

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