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2017-03-29 / News

Governor vetoes ‘sexually explicit’ content bill

BY RICH GRISET STAFF WRITER

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill last week that would have required schools to notify parents about “sexually explicit” instructional materials.

Nicknamed the “‘Beloved’ bill,” House Bill 2191 passed the General Assembly on Feb. 24. The bill would have required schools to notify parents about sexually explicit materials used in the classroom, and supply replacement materials upon request.

The bill was similar to one McAuliffe vetoed last year. The governor said the earlier bill was unnecessary because the Virginia Board of Education was already reviewing the matter. The board had its final review of a regulations amendment that would have required parental notification for “sexually explicit” books this January, but ultimately decided against it, citing the problem of defining the term “sexually explicit,” among other reasons.

In this year’s veto explanation, McAuliffe stated “the Virginia Board of Education has examined this issue in recent years. In doing so, the Board engaged in lengthy and substantive conversations with school boards, teachers, parents and students. At the conclusion of its inquiry, the Board determined that existing state policy regarding sensitive or controversial instructional material is sufficient and that additional action would be unnecessarily burdensome on the instructional process.”

Joan Bertin, executive director for the National Coalition Against Censorship, lauded McAuliffe’s actions.

“I thought the governor’s statement made perfect sense. He asked the Board of Education, and he followed their lead,” Bertin said. “[The bill] would be a sitting duck for litigation.”

Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, took issue with the veto. “If schools and teachers have nothing to hide, there should have been no opposition,” she said. “It is remarkable that the governor has so little respect for parents who simply want to know [the content of the books] and be free to make decisions. Parents are not the enemy of education. They’re actually the driving force behind their children learning and succeeding.”

State Sen. Amanda Chase – one of the leading voices in Chesterfield schools’ own summer reading list controversy last year – also disapproved of the veto, and mentioned that the gubernatorial race this fall may result in a different outcome in the next General Assembly session.

“The governor’s veto is not surprising, but it is disappointing,” Chase said. “With a Republican governor, it should pass. The legislation has bipartisan support.” ¦

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