Stakeholder Response on Proposed Modifications
October 11, 2022
LOUDOUN COUNTY, VA — As noted within the recent developments on Policy 5055: Instructional Materials with Sexually Explicit Content, the leadership within Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) planned to solicit feedback from community stakeholders on changes to this incredibly important policy proposal. With over 1,000+ official members based in Loudoun County that consist of LCPS parents, students, and educators, we hope to provide critical feedback on how this policy will negatively impact the focus of LCPS: the students.
As a family-focused organization, we fully support the involvement of parents in the lives and education of their children. Additionally, we fully support advance notification and opt-out policies for any sexually explicit materials that students are required to read or recieve direct instruction on.
However, there are several aspects of this policy we do not support.
The basis for the definition of “sexual content” as listed in the proposed policy includes the definition listed in Code of Virginia, section § 2.2-2827. This would legally label activities, discussion, or depictions of members of the LGBTQ+ community as “sexual content”, as explicitly labeled in the aforementioned code under “homosexuality.” As we’ve also seen, the ideas of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are often conflated resulting in attacks on all queer voices.
Most importantly, this definition strips the LGBTQ+ members of the LCPS student population and their families of dignity by labeling their lives and existence as inherently sexually explicit, affecting their ability to learn openly and with respect.
As written, this policy will lead to censoring materials and instruction that includes important figures who were reportedly gay, transgender, or gender non-conforming such as Leonardo DaVinci, Florence Nightingale, King James VI, William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, and more.
And in the most urgent sense, as we have seen in recent years, it will hasten the degradation and expulsion of equitable and inclusive reading material pertaining to the LGBTQ+ community, its lived experiences, and ideas that cultivate empathy and understanding of LGBTQ+ peers.
Already within LCPS, of the books challenged in recent years, over 71% are books that feature LGBTQ+ characters or themes. This has often been part of a national, coordinated attack on LGBTQ+ literature in schools on the basis of moral or religious objection to the existence of gay and transgender individuals and their equal inclusion in society. To this effect, removal and censorship of these books further criminalize and objectify LGBTQ+ youth, contributing to bullying, harassment, violence, and the outcomes that come as a result of that stigma: mental health impacts, physical and sexual assault, substance abuse, homelessness, and suicidal ideation. While it is reasonable that a parent should have the ability to determine reading materials for their own children, it is not the place of a parent or community member to determine what is acceptable for another parent’s child to learn by removing books or learning materials that may be critical, provide a unique perspective, or foster a love for reading.
LCPS is a district that is privileged to have a corps of highly trained professional librarians who are committed to providing free-choice reading to all students. While it is acceptable for parents to determine what reading material is appropriate for their own children, it is not acceptable for parents to determine what is acceptable for all students. Librarians depend not only on their expertise, but on vetted professional resources when selecting and recommending books to students. LCPS should be supporting these librarians in doing the job they are well trained and qualified to do, not passing policy that will require them to go against their professional ethics and limit access to or censor books.
As outlined in the mission of LCPS and all schools, all students should feel safe, included, and accepted in their school environments. This is not accomplished by labeling nearly 10% of the student body from kindergarten to seniors as “sexually explicit.” We implore the LCPS School Board and leadership to revise this policy to explicitly state that the policy shall not include “homosexuality” in its definition of sexually explicit materials.
Equality Loudoun Board of Directors
o/b/o the Loudoun LGBTQ+ Community and Allies