A Virginia bill that would require public schools to notify parents of "sexually explicit content" and offer "nonexplicit" alternatives poses a profound threat to public education and First Amendment principles, according to a coalition of free speech organizations.

The letter to Virginia Senate Committee on Education and Health from the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC)—signed by the National Council of Teachers of English, American Booksellers for Free Expression, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and the Children’s and Young Adult Book Committee of the PEN American Center—argues that the bill poses serious concerns. By singling out “sexually explicit content," it "relies on a standard that is both over-inclusive and vague…. titles as varied, valuable, and time-honored as Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, and most works by William Shakespeare could be flagged."

The letter also points out that providing "nonexplicit" alternatives "raises the potential for multiple different assigned materials in a single classroom, impeding teachers' efforts to foster discussion while imposing on them an unnecessary administrative burden." And the bill raises serious constitutional concerns: "If the proposed legislation results in the removal of material solely to satisfy those who object to its content, it could inadvertently expose school districts to liability for violating the First Amendment."

For these reasons, the organizations encourage members of the committee to vote against HB516.

Read the full letter below; click here for a full-screen view

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