FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) is expected to sign a bill regulating explicit content in schools.
The House of Delegates passed legislation on Feb. 28 on a party-line vote to require schools to notify parents if their children are assigned books with sexually explicit content.
The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, had already passed the Senate.
"The passage of this bill, signals to schools that parents will not be silenced. Notifying parents is just common sense, and I look forward to signing it when it reaches my desk," Youngkin said in a statement.
The bill would also require that students be given an alternative assignment if parents object to the materials.
The bill uses a definition of sexually explicit content that already exists in state law. The Department of Education is tasked with developing model regulations for local school boards to implement.
“It is necessary, and I said it’s going to be a first step but there’s going to have to be I think at some point a stronger bill written that will address the materials that are on the shelves of our schools’ libraries,” Stacy Langton, an FCPS parent said in an interview with WUSA9.
Langton had been advocating against keeping certain books on Fairfax County Public School shelves since the fall. She said she believes her continued fight against certain books led to this bill and its passage, which was identified as a legislative priority for Youngkin after a similar bill was vetoed in 2016 by then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D).
The book that spurred the in 2016 legislation was Toni Morrison's "Beloved," a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel set in the post-Civil War era that has been called an unflinching look into the abyss of slavery. The book also includes depictions of sex and rape.
"It’s about surpassing books. Maybe not you can’t read this book, but this book is so much trouble let’s not bother with it," Robert Rigby Jr., the co-president of FCPS Pride, said. "My concern is people who don’t like LGBTQ people too much setting this policy. I’m worried, I’m concerned.”
Democrats who objected to the 2022 version of the bill said it smacked of censorship, and that valuable pieces of literature would be targeted under the legislation. Supporters emphasized that no books are banned or censored, and that the bill simply allows parents to be notified of explicit materials.
Youngkin has supported several education measures this session that he says empower parents’ involvement in their children’s education, a key issue in his gubernatorial campaign.