School Board debuts proposed ‘sexually explicit’ materials policy

Published 11:04 am Friday, October 28, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The Isle of Wight County School Board received its first look at proposed policy revisions intended to allow parents to opt their children out of “sexually explicit” instructional materials.

Virginia’s General Assembly passed legislation this year mandating school boards adopt policies by Jan. 1 that are “consistent with” or “more comprehensive than” new Virginia Department of Education model policies pertaining to sexually explicit material. The law defines “sexually explicit” to mean any “lewd exhibition of nudity” or any image or description of sexual excitement, sexual conduct, sadomasochistic abuse, coprophilia, urophilia, bestiality or fetishism, and the term “instructional material” as referring to any content “used by one or more students for an educational purpose.”

The model policies, which the VDOE published in August, require schools to provide parents at least 30 days’ notice ahead of using any sexually explicit materials, and advise them of their rights to review the material and/or have their child be given an alternative assignment using non-explicit material.

The model policies further mandate that principals “maintain a current list of instructional materials with sexually explicit content by grade and subject on the school’s public website,” and require schools to “defer to parents” when determining whether the use of sexually explicit content in instructional materials “is appropriate for their child.”

To achieve compliance, Isle of Wight County Schools has proposed adding language to its existing School Board Policy IIA, which would direct Superintendent Dr. Theo Cramer to create a “process for identifying instructional materials, including supplementary materials, with sexually explicit content,” as well as “a process for identifying, prior to the start of each school year, any instructional material that includes sexually explicit content that may be used during the upcoming school year.”

The proposed changes to Policy IIA further specify Cramer is to create a process for principals to provide the required 30-day written notice, as well as a process for parents to change their decision regarding whether their child is provided with sexually explicit instructional material. Cramer is further directed to crate a process for maintaining the required list on the school division’s website and a process for parents to access and review any sexually explicit instructional materials online “unless such review is not technically feasible or is prohibited by copyright protection.”

The School Board is slated to take a second look at and vote on the proposed policy changes at its November meeting.

Smithfield High School’s “Read Woke” challenge, which encourages students to read social justice-themed books available at the school’s library, drew criticism last year from parents – some of whom argued the books’ use of profanity and depictions of sex and in some cases rape was inappropriate for teenagers. Others, among them School Board candidate Jason Maresh, argued in a letter to Cramer’s predecessor that the books “disparage white people as privileged, inherently racist, oppressors and victimizers.”

Per the new state law, library books would only be deemed “instructional materials” if used “for the completion of an assignment” or “as part of an academic or extracurricular education program.”