Virginia School District Removes Sexually Explicit Books to Keep Focus on Literacy
A public school superintendent in Virginia is making it clear that his school district will be focusing on improving the literacy of its students while also protecting them from being exposed to sexually explicit material while in school.
As parents and observers began noticing a rise in gender ideology, critical race theory, and pornographic material present in curriculums and school library books in recent years, many worried that the focus on ideologies was eating up valuable class time that could be spent on developing basic competencies in reading, writing, and math. News came in 2022 and in June of this year that math and reading scores had plummeted to the lowest levels in decades.
Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) rode a wave of energy surrounding the burgeoning parental rights movement to a surprise gubernatorial victory in 2021, and his administration has made education policy a focal point. In 2022, Youngkin signed into law the Virginia Literacy Act, which focused on improving the reading skills of Virginia’s students by providing special training to teachers, sharing instruction results with parents, and partnering with parents to create individualized plans for students who are showing a deficiency in reading.
“There’s a lot of talk in public education right now about implementing Virginia’s Literacy Act, about wanting to improve standards of learning and standardized test scores,” said Mark Taylor, superintendent of Spotsylvania County Public Schools in Fredericksburg, Va., during Monday’s edition of “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins.” “And we’re doing that in Spotsylvania County. But also among those priorities is a debate, really, about parental rights and parental involvement in public education. In Spotsylvania, we are following the directives of Governor Glenn Youngkin, and we are working hard to maximize parental engagement and parental involvement.”
Taylor also noted that he is continuing efforts his school district started in March to remove sexually explicit material from the shelves of school libraries.
“We provide an avenue for parents to opt in or opt out of the availability of sexually explicit materials for their children, and we’re actively reviewing challenges of instructional materials, including library books,” he explained. “I’ve recently removed 23 more books now, for a total of 37 books removed from our public school libraries. Now, we have 390,000 volumes, so there are plenty of books to be read.”
Taylor went on to point out the extreme nature of some of the sexually explicit material that he removed. “[It’s] essentially pornography and doesn’t need to be a part of [school libraries]. In fact, some of it is shocking scenes of violent rape or descriptions of forced bestiality, sex with animals.”
In response to accusations of “book banning” from legacy media and left-wing critics, Taylor emphasized that any books that have been removed from school library shelves are widely available elsewhere.
“The books that I’ve removed, to the best of my knowledge, are all still available in the public libraries, so this is in no way a ban. The books are available in the community, they’re available online, they’re available from a variety of sources. We’re simply trying to, number one, follow the governor’s directives in implementing policy for our school division. And number two, to create what I hope will be a safe space for children to learn the basics of English and literacy and mathematics and other subjects that are essential to their preparation for a positive and beautiful future that we want them to have.”
In April 2022, Youngkin signed into law a measure that requires Virginia schools to notify parents if their child is assigned books or other materials that contain sexually explicit content.
Taylor also shared his thoughts as to why some public school administrations have appeared to show hostility to the concerns of parents.
“I think that what has been enculturated over many years is the notion that the professional educators are specialists in the field with exemplary competencies, and they are best positioned to help the students forward,” he observed. “Professional educators are certainly highly trained and very talented people, but at the end of the day, I think it’s also true that no one knows the child like the parent knows the child. And for public education to be successful, there really needs to be an effective collaboration, a solid partnership, close connection between parents and public school educators working together to prepare students for their very best future. … Let’s work together instead of pulling in opposite directions.”
Taylor concluded by urging for prayer and a strong turnout in the upcoming election.
“Pray for the upcoming election,” he entreated. “Virginia is a purple state next week. Local seats are up, including seats on our Board of Supervisors that appropriates money to the school division and seats on our school board. And this purple state is going to become more blue, or it’s going to become more red. These issues will continue to be debated, and our success or failure depends in part on support from the community and from the voters.”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.