On January 26, 2017, the Virginia Board of Education met to discuss and vote upon proposed amendments to the Regulations Governing Local School Boards and School Divisions(8VAC 20-720). The regulations would require school divisions to give parents and legal guardians a list of any and all works which students will study during the school year and which might contain language or scenes that could be labeled as sexually explicit. In the public comments time devoted to the issue, the Board heard from approximately one dozen parents, teachers, librarians, and members of the professional organizations the American Civil Liberties Union, the Virginia Association of Teachers of English, and the National Council of Teachers of English.
Based on the spring 2016 HB 516 bill regarding notification of sexually explicit materials, passed by the Virginia General Assembly and then vetoed by Governor Terry McAuliffe, the members of the Board have been considering aspects of the issue since 2013. While, in subsequent discussion one Board member asked for the tabling of the regulations in light of a proposed statewide-survey, the Board voted overwhelmingly to deny the new regulations. Members of the Board cited the lack of definition of sexually explicit, noted the in-place regulations and procedures of many school divisions, and concluded that the negative experience of one parent and her son (Ms. Laura Murphy, Fairfax County Public Schools who was behind the legislation) should not dictate new regulations.
The identical issue is now under consideration by this year’s General Assembly in HB 2191. Please see http://lis.virginia.gov/cgibin/legp604.exe?171+sum+HB2191