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Virginia Senate OKs Bill Warning of Sexually Explicit Books

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File Image: Virginia Senate File Image: Virginia Senate

A controversial bill made its way out of the Virginia General Assembly Tuesday. It would let parents opt their kids out of coursework in public schools deemed to have sexually explicit content.

Many Republicans say this measure is needed because parents should have oversight and know when sensitive material is in front of their children.

"And frankly, I think we ought to clean up our schools. They are simply moving in a very dark direction, in many respects,” said Senator Dick Black R-13th District. 

On the other hand, many Democrats believe this is a slippery slope that could lead to censorship.

The bill sparked spirited debate from the Virginia Senate floor because it would require the Board of Education to set up a policy on sexually explicit content in public elementary and secondary schools.

"This shows us to be small minded. We would be the first and only state to have a policy like this," said Senator Janet Howell, D-32nd District.

House Bill 516 made it out of the senate Tuesday on a 22 to 17 vote.

The bill would make schools tell parents when a class assignment involves sexual content, then they would have the chance to review and reject the coursework for their child. The teacher would then come up with alternative material for those students.

"We’re dealing with young, influential minds. These books talk about rape and they explain them explicitly. These books talk about incest and it explains it explicitly,” said Senator Bill Carrico, R-40th District.

Many Democrats vehemently opposed the legislation, arguing it'll get out of hand.

"And we should not be taking this first step towards encouraging censorship. (white flash) i just think it's the wrong path to start down,” said Senator Adam Ebbin, D-30th District:

Many lawmakers also spoke about the Bible Tuesday.

Those against the bill asked if the scripture would be objectionable too because it addresses many sensitive issues.

Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office says it'll review the bill and announce action once it's taken.

Press Release from Delegate R. Steve Landes (R):

RICHMOND, VA – Del. R. Steven Landes, R-Weyers Cave, Chairman of the House Education Committee, today announced passage of House Bill 516, which requires the Board of Education to establish a policy regarding sexually explicit materials for public schools. The bill passed the Senate 22 to 17.

“I am pleased that this legislation which provides the option for a parent to review the material and allow a student to receive a different assignment, if requested, has now passed the House of Delegates and State Senate,” Landes said. “I would like to stress, this legislation does not tell a teacher what he or she can teach or how he or she can teach it – it simply provides for parental notification of explicit material,” noted Landes.

House Bill 516 codifies the parental notification requirement and directs the Board of Education to establish a policy requiring every public school in Virginia to: directly notify parents about specific sexually explicit material; permit the parent of a student to review instructional material that includes sexually explicit content; and provide, upon request, alternative assignments that do not contain sexually explicit material. It will now proceed to the Governor’s office for his review.

Landes represents the 25th House District, which includes parts of Albemarle, Augusta, and Rockingham Counties. Landes is currently serving his eleventh term in the Virginia House of Delegates.

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