Bill giving Virginia parents power over sexually explicit coursework heads to governor

The bill will head to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk for his signature.

Updated: March 3, 2022 - 5:02pm

Legislation that would allow Virginia parents to opt their children out of assignments that include sexually explicit content has passed both chambers of the General Assembly and will head to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk for his signature.

Senate Bill 656, sponsored by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, passed the House of Delegates, 52-46, along party lines after passing the Senate, 20-18, with support from a couple of Democrat lawmakers. The governor, who campaigned on supporting this legislation, is expected to sign the bill.

“A win for parents!” Dunnavant said in a statement. “My bill SB 656, that gives parents the chance to review sexually explicit material in schools and to provide alternative options has passed the Senate and now the House of Delegates. Now headed to the Governor's desk!”

The legislation would require the Virginia Department of Education to establish specific policies related to sexually explicit material, which school boards would need to adopt by Jan. 1, 2023. These policies would ensure schools notify parents of sexually explicit content in their child’s coursework and directly identify the sexually explicit content and subjects.

Schools also must give parents the authority to opt their children out of such classwork, in which case the teacher would provide a nonexplicit alternative assignment.

Parents would be allowed to opt their own children out of the assignments, and the bill would not give them any power to change the coursework for other students. The bill explicitly states parents will not have the authority to censor books in any public elementary or secondary schools.

Youngkin focused on granting parents more authority over what schools teach their children during his campaign. Among his proposals was reforming the law to ensure that parents could opt their children out of sexually explicit assignments. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who was running against Youngkin, vetoed similar legislation when he was governor.

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