A Virginia Senate committee on Thursday approved a bill that would require local school boards to notify parents about “sexually explicit materials” in the classroom.
The Senate Health and Education Committee approved Senate Bill 656 with state Sens. J. Chapman Petersen (D-Fairfax City) and Lynwood Lewis (D-Accomack) voting for it. The measure, which state Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico County) introduced, does not specifically define “sexually explicit content.”
The committee approved SB 656 amid concerns that Republican lawmakers in the wake of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s election and the GOP regaining control of the Virginia House of Delegates would try to limit public school students’ access to LGBTQ-specific information. Democrats control the Senate by a 21-19 margin.
The Loudoun County School Board last month upheld Superintendent Scott Zigler’s decision to remove “Gender Queer: A Memoir” from the system’s high school libraries.
The Fairfax County School Board last fall removed “Gender Queer: A Memoir” and another LGBTQ-themed book, “Lawn Boy,” from the district’s high school libraries after a group of parents complained. Officials later returned the books to the shelves.
Youngkin has named Elizabeth Schultz, a former member of the Fairfax County School Board who vocally opposed LGBTQ rights, as the Virginia Department of Education’s Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The Republican governor’s first executive order after he took office on Jan. 15 ended the “use of so-called critical race theory” (which is not taught in Virginia schools) and other “divisive concepts” in Virginia public schools. The same Senate committee that approved SB 656 on Thursday also tabled a bill that would have codified the directive into law.