ASHBURN, Va. — Loudoun County school officials held their first meeting to discuss the implementation of their policy on sexually explicit content in classrooms to adhere to the new statewide requirement that parents be notified when this kind of material will be used in schools.
The draft being considered by the school system not only identifies the material that is deemed to contain sexually explicit content, but it gives parents a 30-day notice that the material is being used. Under the proposal, alternative options would be provided to students upon their parent or guardian's request.
Policy 5055 defines sexually explicit content as:
“means (i) any description of or (ii) any picture, photograph, drawing, motion 18 picture film, digital image or similar visual representation depicting sexual bestiality, a 19 lewd exhibition of nudity, as nudity is defined in Va. Code § 18.2-390, sexual 20 excitement, sexual conduct or sadomasochistic abuse, as also defined in Va. Code § 21 18.2-390, coprophilia, Europhilia, or fetishism.”
Attendance was low during Thursday night's meeting but a group of parents that have had issues with some of the literary choices at LCPS schools expressed their concerns.
"The state does not have the right to sexual my children. I have a right as a parent to actually express the healthy sexuality," said Clint Thomas, a father of five LCPS students.
Thomas says he has raised concerns before about some of the books selected for his high school-age children because they, "glorify sexual acts", but says he is also against the banning of books.
Loudoun County Public Schools has identified eleven books that could potentially be deemed as having sexually explicit content:
- “Kite Runner” by Kahled Hosseini
- “Beloved” by Toni Morrison
- “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng
- “The Odyssey” by Homer
- “Circe” by Madeline Miller
- “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou
- “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens
- “1984” by George Orwell
- “Monday is Not Coming” by Tiffany Jackson
- “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Nora Zeal Hurston
- “Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood.
"Hiding these things from kids will not prevent sexual abuse from happening," said Ericka Weiskopf, a college educator who spoke at the meeting on behalf of her mother, an LCPS English teacher.
"I think it is important to see material in a critical supportive environment," she told WUSA9.
Another parent, Michael Rivera criticized the board for what he calls a lack of transparency. Rivera says he is in favor of going beyond what the Commonwealth's policy requires by also addressing the literature inside libraries.
"This new policy that they are trying to adopt exempts school and classroom libraries from being scrutinized under the moniker of sexually explicit materials, but that's where the books are," said Rivera.
Ian Sirotkin, the board Vice Chair expressed concern about the current policy that only allows for two options, material is either sexually explicit or not.
"One of the things that was discussed is possibly putting in place a grading system, or some kind of low, moderate and high to better classify that," said Sirotkin.
School boards across Virginia are required to adopt and implement their own version of the policy that aligns with state guidelines by January 1.
In Loudoun County, the issue will be a months-long process with the next meeting being held on November 7.
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