Officials with the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) said the regulations, which school boards have until January to adopt, are at reinforcing parents in their right to decide what their children are exposed to and at protecting their innocence, according to local Richmond outlet WTKR. They also noted that the law is not intended to censor books or instructional material based on the sexual orientation of characters in such books.
The policy mandates that public schools in Virginia, which has been a hotbed of conflict between parents and school boards, must give parents prior notice if they intend to use any material with sexually explicit content, which it defines as “any description, picture, photograph , drawing, motion picture film, digital image or similar visual representation depicting sexual bestiality, a lewd exhibition of nudity, sexual excitement, sexual conduct or sadomasochistic abuse, coprophilia, urophilia, or fetishism.”
Parents will be allowed to review the potentially objectionable material and be given the opportunity for their child to be given an alternative in a process that schools will be required to create before the start of each school year.
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Schools will also be mandated to list the materials on their websites and give parents at least 30 days’ notice before such material is slated to be taught.
The policies apply to “Any content used by one or more students for an educational purpose, regardless of (a) its format, whether printed, representational, audiovisual, electronic, or digital (such as materials, social media content, and software applications accessible through the internet), or (b) the time, place and manner in which the content is used.”
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“Library materials are considered instructional materials when used (i) for completion of an assignment, or (ii) as part of an academic or extracurricular educational program. This includes any division, school, and/or classroom purchased or created assessments. However, the phrases ‘instructional material’ and ‘instructional materials‘ do not include standardized national or state assessments, such as ACT, SAT, NAEP, and AP or SOL exam,” the policies continue.
The new law comes weeks after a judge in Virginia Beach dismissed a lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds that had sought to deem two controversial books as obscene and to restrict their distribution to minors in libraries and bookstores.
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“Gender Queer” and “A Court of Mist and Fury” have stocked outrage from parents who object to the description or illustration of sexual acts in them. “Gender Queer,” an award-winning 2014 graphic novel by Maia Kobabe, includes photos of sexual acts between a boy and a man.
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