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Official Position on House Bill 516

The Virginia Association of Teachers of English (VATE), the state affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English, respectfully disagrees with the House of Delegates’ vote on House Bill 516 regarding Policy on Sexually Explicit Instructional Material.  We strongly object to the language requiring that schools “notify the parent of any student whose teacher reasonably expects to provide instructional material that includes sexually explicit content.”

VATE values the communication between teachers and parents about the content used to satisfy course objectives. The organization also recognizes the professional knowledge of teachers and relies on them to make sound judgments about the literary merit of the texts selected for a course.  Conversations arising from questions about a text and its use in the classroom are meaningful opportunities to strengthen the educational partnership between parents, teachers, and students; however, the productivity of these conversations is diminished if the parent or student is responding to a label as opposed to a passage in context.  

The language proposed for inclusion not only negates the expertise of educators, but also privileges the concerns of a minority that object to a text on personal or ideological grounds.  While the term “sexually explicit” is defined in the Code of Virginia, denoting texts with this label remains arbitrary when applied to a passage or visual out of context.  

The study of both literary and nonfiction texts is a process through which students learn to consider the author’s craft, diverse perspectives, and a work as whole rather than separate pieces.  Judging a text based on isolated content warrants strong consideration as it limits the scope of reading experiences available to students, undermines the expertise of teachers, and unnecessarily censors materials available in our public schools.

Sincerely,

Chuck Miller, Executive Secretary

Sarah Crain, Policy and Advocacy Chair

Tori Otstot, Past President

Kelly Trump, President

 

Read the bill here:

https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?161+sum+HB516

Read more about the bill:

http://www.dailyprogress.com/newsvirginian/news/house-bill-would-allow-parents-to-veto-sexually-explicit-materials/article_a0ebd738-c4d0-11e5-84d4-475d21ee4ab3.html

http://rvamag.com/articles/full/25620/bill-allowing-parents-to-review-books-veto-sexually-explicit-material-passes

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