UPDATE: We are gratified to learn that the VA Board of Education decided not to include red-flagging language in its policy governing school communications.
In public comments on Virginia's State Department of Education website and in a letter to board members, NCAC's Kids' Right to Read Project asked the Board of Education to reject a proposed amendment that would force schools to notify parents any time "sensitive" materials are used in the classroom.
This issue began in February of 2013, when a parent in Fairfax County filed a complaint to have Beloved removed from AP English classrooms because it had given her son nightmares. The Fairfax County school board felt the complaint was not a priority for the large district, and did not take it up. Later that spring, the parent and allied parents met with a Department of Education committee to further their mission of making sure every parent knows every time anything "sensitive" is read, seen or heard by their child. What would be defined as sensitive is unclear.
In January, the Board of Education in Virginia opened a Town Hall to allow for public commentary on a policy amendment.
The proposed amendment to "Regulations Establishing Standards for Accrediting Public Schools in Virginia (8VAC 20-131 et seq.), specifically 8 VAC 20-131-270" would include new language:
School and community communications, Item B.1, to include the following language: 1. The learning objectives developed in accordance with the provisions of 8 VAC 20-131-70 to be achieved at their child's grade level; or, in high school, a copy of the syllabus for each of their child's courses, including a notice to parents about any sensitive or sexually explicit materials that may be included in the course, the textbook, or any supplemental instructional materials; and a copy of the school division promotion, retention, and remediation policies;
In our letter, we explained that this amendment would be tantamount to red flagging books because of content someone might find offensive and states that the better way — the only way — to assess materials is by their educational value.