FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
March 3, 2016
Contact: Jason Stanford, 804-698-1049, DelALopez@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Lopez Speaks Out Against Educational Censorship Bill
ARLINGTON – Today the Virginia House of Delegates voted to pass House Bill 516. The bill requires a school to notify parents if any instructional materials include sexually explicit content and provide different instructional materials and assignments for any student whose parent objects to the sexually explicit material.
The unintended consequences of this bill are to require teachers to redefine whatever they're teaching solely in terms of how much "sexually explicit" content it may contain. In far too many cases, a teacher will not be able to do two entire lesson plans for the same class (sometimes on very quick turnaround after an objection from just one parent). This makes it much less likely that they'd be willing to even attempt to use anything that might be considered objectionable in their lessons. Without intending to do it, this will have a dampening effect encouraging teachers to avoid any content that might be found objectionable by any single parent.
“When the government establishes laws to label literature in terms of a single factor, regardless of that factor's significance to the larger world of literary merit or meaning, it edges closer to censorship. It means we are labeling content for the sole purpose of suppressing it,” said Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington). “The decision about what is appropriate in a given classroom belongs between parents, teachers, school administrators, and local school boards. This bill creates a one-size-fits-all approach throughout the Commonwealth that does not account for the age of the students, regional or cultural considerations, the subject matter, or the context in which the material is being taught. Diminishing and reducing Romeo and Juliet to a play that is just about "teen sex" and suicide does a disservice to the student, our school systems, and the Commonwealth.”
The bill does not define what type of material would qualify as “sexually explicit,” but tasks the State Board of Education with developing a definition. It would also apply to all academic subjects, including history, science/biology, art history, civics, as well as English and literature.