The Virginia State Capitol building in Richmond (Jay Paul/Reuters)
The Virginia Senate voted 20-18 on Wednesday to approve legislation that would require schools to notify parents before sexually-explicit materials are used in classrooms.
The bill, known as S.B. 656, would also give parents the right to review any such material and to request alternative, non-explicit materials for their child. While the Virginia Senate has a narrow Democratic majority, two Democrats voted with Republicans in favor of the legislation.
The bill will now head to Virginia’s GOP-controlled House of Delegates, where it is expected to pass.
Full passage by the Virginia legislature would give a victory to Governor Glenn Youngkin, a Republican who campaigned in part on issues of parental control over their children’s educational material.
“What we’ve seen over the course of this last 20 months is our school systems refusing to engage with parents,” Youngkin said at a gubernatorial debate in September. “In fact, in Fairfax County this past week, we watched parents so upset because there was such sexually explicit material in the library they had never seen, it was shocking.”
Youngkin added that then-opponent Terry McAuliffe had vetoed “the bill that would have informed parents that they were there.”
Initially, the S.B. 656 was paired with a separate bill that would have required parental permission before students check books with sexual content out of school libraries, and would have ordered school boards to implement policies regulating “controversial instructional material.” That bill was defeated 8-7 by the Virginia Senate’s Education and Health Committee last month.
“I’m not trying to ban anything or burn anything—all I want to say is, let’s let the parents say it’s okay for their child to see this,” Senator Bill DeSteph, a Republican who sponsored the bill, said during debate.
The vote on Wednesday to pass S.B. 656 came just before the Virginia Senate passed another
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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is also a violist, and has served in the Israeli Defense Forces.