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2017-03-08 / Front Page

Governor likely to veto ‘sexually explicit’ bill

BY RICH GRISET STAFF WRITER

Last week, the National Coalition Against Censorship issued a statement urging Gov. Terry McAuliffe to veto a bill that would require schools to notify parents about “sexually explicit” instructional materials.

Sponsored by Del. Steve Landes, R-Verona, House Bill 2191 passed the General Assembly on Feb. 24. The bill is similar to one McAuliffe vetoed last year – he called that bill “unnecessary” given that the Virginia Board of Education was already reviewing the matter. This January, the board decided against amending its regulations to require parental notification for “sexually explicit” books for numerous reasons, including the problem of defining the term “sexually explicit.”

In response to the General Assembly’s recent passing of House Bill 2191, the NCAC and nine other organizations – including the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and the American Library Association – signed a letter urging McAuliffe to veto the bill.

“If the state enacts this law, it will be vulnerable to legal challenge,” says Joan Bertin, executive director of the NCAC. “Kids actually have some First Amendment rights, and parental consent requirements infringe on the rights of minors to access legal – and in this case educational – content.”

Bertin has a number of concerns about the bill, including the fact that it doesn’t include an exemption for students who are no longer minors.

“It is patently unconstitutional [for] people who are 18 or over,” Bertin says. “You don’t need your parents’ consent to read a book when you’re 18 or older.”

McAuliffe will probably respond to the bill as he did last year.

“You can expect him to veto it again,” says McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy. “I think the governor [believes that the] proper venue for that was the Board of Education. They looked at it, they made a decision.”

State Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield – a leading voice in Chesterfield’s own book controversy last summer – says a veto of the bill would be unfortunate. She adds that she personally plans to write letters to her children’s teachers, asking to be notified of and allowed to review any sexually explicit materials used in the classroom.

“It’s disappointing that the governor would once again veto common-sense legislation that reinforces a parent’s basic rights,” Chase says. “While we strive in the General Assembly to pass laws that help the constituents, we as parents still have those God-given rights, and those rights cannot be denied by the legislature or the governor. Those are God-given rights, and I encourage parents to exercise those rights.” ¦

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