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Loudoun Co. school board approves policy to notify parents of 'sexually explicit' content

The Loudoun County School Board{ } approved a new policy on instructional materials with "sexually explicit content" to comply with state law. (7News){p}{/p}
The Loudoun County School Board approved a new policy on instructional materials with "sexually explicit content" to comply with state law. (7News)

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On Tuesday, the Loudoun County school board overwhelmingly approved, by a 7-2 vote, a new policy requiring schools to provide parents proper notification when teaching materials will include "sexually explicit content," as mandated by state law.

Under the policy, Policy 5055, the purpose is, "to provide for advance notification of the intended use of any instructional materials with sexually explicit content in their child’s education, to provide parents the ability to inspect and review those materials, and to ensure parents have the opportunity to select for their child the option of alternative instructional materials and related academic activities that do not contain sexually explicit content."

This policy would require parents to get a written notice at least 30 days before using any instructional materials with "sexually explicit content." The district will also make available a running list of any explicit content intended to be used as instructional materials for each grade and subject on the district's website.

READ MORE: Debate over sexually explicit content in Loudoun Co schools rages on during board meeting

Additionally, parents will be asked to give notification to teachers at least five days before instructional material with sexually explicit content will be used in a class, in order to give the teacher time to come up with alternative lesson plans for that student.

However, some parents said during the public comment period Tuesday night they believed this is unnecessary.

"Nobody's mommy had a fit because everybody knew we were smart enough and very capable of handling that material, just as students are today," said Jan Mercker.

The use of "sexually explicit" materials has been the source of explosive debate in previous Loudoun County school board meetings.

The policy will also create procedures for schools to identify instructional materials with sexually explicit content, notify parents, allow parents to review the material in question, and have alternative instructional materials without sexually explicit content.

READ ALSO: Loudoun County drafts policy on using 'sexually explicit content' in school materials

This policy does not intend to censor books or label instructional material as sexually explicit based on the sexual orientation or gender identity of the characters in those books.

Andrea Weiskopf, a middle school teacher in the district, said she's afraid this policy will still lead to the minimization of LGBTQ students and families, despite that measure.

"Policy 5055 is a guise of using parental notification to erase LGBTQ students," Weiskopf said. "We want families to be involved, but this is allowing individual parents to individualize a curriculum for their own worldview."

The state law passed in the 2022 legislative session requiring school boards to pass this kind of model policy, SB 656, outlines the following requirement in any such policy passed:

  1. Ensuring parental notification;
  2. Directly identifying the specific instructional material and sexually explicit subjects; and
  3. Permitting the parent of any student to review instructional material that includes sexually explicit content and provide, as an alternative, nonexplicit instructional material, and related academic activities to any student whose parent so requests.

However, at least one parent at Tuesday's meeting demanded the school board involve parents even more.

"I hope the school board does something different with 5055, and starts to involve parents when we talk about contesting and reviewing books," said M. Rivera.

Under state law, "sexually explicit content" is defined as "(i) any description of or (ii) any picture, photograph, drawing, motion picture film, digital image or similar visual representation depicting sexual bestiality, a lewd exhibition of nudity, as nudity is defined in 18.2-390, sexual excitement, sexual conduct or sadomasochistic abuse, as also defined in 18.2-390, coprophilia, urophilia, or fetishism."

Weiskopf said she's afraid this new policy will change the way teachers do their jobs.

"Teachers and librarians are going to be hesitant to recommend books to students," Weiskopf said. "Parents are already entitled to see what we're doing."

The policy will go into effect on January 1, 2023, in order to be in compliance with state law.

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