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Both houses of the Virginia General Assembly have passed a bill requiring teachers to give advance notice to parents of "sexually explicit" passages in assigned reading, and to make alternate assignments available to parents who don't want their Special Snowflakes exposed to anything too raunchy. The legislation, House Bill 516, leaves the thorny task of defining "sexually explicit" materials up to the state school board. As of now, the Washington Post notes:

About half of Virginia school districts already follow this practice, but lawmakers who support the bill said it should be enshrined in state law. Opponents say the measure would remove discretion from local school boards and push Virginia down a slippery slope toward banning books.

Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe hasn't said whether he'll sign the bill. If it's vetoed, Republicans won't be able to manage an override, since it only passed the state Senate on a 22-17 vote, well short of the 2/3 majority needed.

In addition to requiring advance notice of possibly icky sex stuff in required readings, HB 516 specifies notifications sent to parents must "directly identify the specific instructional material and sexually explicit content contained in such material[.]" It's not clear whether that means teachers will be expected to provide general descriptions, or to transcribe all objectionable passages verbatim. What happens if a parent finds an instance of cussin' or boobies a teacher didn't specifically warn of?

The bill arose from a 2013 complaint from Laura Murphy, a Fairfax County parent, over the use of Toni Morrison's Pulitzer-winning novel Beloved in her son's 12th-grade Advanced Placement English class. The lad was so traumatized by the novel's "scenes of bestiality, gang rape and an infant’s gruesome murder" that he had nightmares, so naturally Murphy demanded the book be yanked from all schools in the district. Screw Morrison's Nobel Prize, What About the Children? While the school district already had a policy allowing parents to request alternate texts, Murphy's failure to get the book banned launched her on a crusade to protect Innocents Kids from filthy literature. She also decided kids should never have to read Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man or Cormac McCarthy's The Road, either.

To prove something must be done about all the terrible material being flung at our children (in 12th-grade college-level classes, at least), Del. David Albo, (R-Fairfax) said when Murphy tried to email passages from Beloved to state officials,

the state’s “pornography screens” blocked her email.

“I lived in a fraternity house for two years. There’s not very much stuff that bothers me,” Albo said. “Even I was aghast at how bad it was.”

Yes, we're trying to visualize a bunch of frat boys sitting around discussing the fine points of Toni Morrison, too.

Not that the bill is about censorship, of course. The Republican delegate who sponsored the bill, R. Steven Landes, resents the suggestion that anyone's trying to suppress this filth. He simply wants parents to know when liberal teachers try to cram filth down children's throats, is all:

“There’s no book banning. There’s no censorship,” Landes said. “There’s none of those things in this bill.”

We don't have a problem with teachers offering alternate assignments to parents who want one -- that's standard in any school district, though why it rises to the need for a state law is beyond us. The "notification" requirement, though, seems designed to have a chilling effect that would make a censor's nipples hard. Highlight only the naughty parts of a book, out of context, and that's all some people will be able to think about.

[contextly_sidebar id="HCWTEn3TGZldm9VgxG9pwLCC1cbnibUz"]Consider for instance the nice Texas mom who tried to ban a nonfiction book, The Working Poor, from AP writing classes because it was "Marxist" and also sexually explicit, including a passage describing, as she put it, “a second-grader having anal sex for the first time.” Why are the children reading about anal sex for a writing class, huh? WHY? As it turns out, it's a single paragraph in a chapter focusing on a woman who'd been raped as a child, has PTSD, and can't hold down a job. But all the angry mom could talk about on a "Christian" radio show was the anal sex; the host of the show suggested that listeners call school officials and ask, "Are you actually telling me that my child needs to read about anal sex to pass the College Board exam?"

If McAuliffe signs this turd of a bill, Virginia teachers may simply decide to stay away from using books that will generate angry phone calls in the first place. And some excellent books will be left unread. Hooray for an informed citizenry!

[Richmond Times-Dispatch / WaPo / WaPo again / Illustration via BuzzFeed]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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