The ACLU of Virginia has joined with eight national free speech organizations to urge Gov. Terry McAuliffe to veto House Bill 516 which would require public schools to notify parents of “sexually explicit content” in educational materials.
In a letter dated March 9, ACLU-VA Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga called the bill “an unusual and inappropriate intervention into the routine operations of public schools” that “constitutes a content-based regulation of speech that should be rejected as a threat to the First Amendment.”
The bill, sponsored by Del. R. Steven Landes (R-Verona), would require the state Board of Education to develop a policy by which parents would be notified of explicit content and have the option to request an alternate assignment for their children.
“Passing judgments, applying labels and red-flagging educational materials that might prompt uncomfortable but insightful discussions is a small-minded activity that does not belong in public schools, state Board of Education policy or Virginia law,” the ACLU-VA’s letter continues.
Further, the bill conflicts with Article VIII Section 7 of the Virginia Constitution that gives local school boards “primary responsibility and authority for effectuating the educational policy” outlined in the constitution.
The ACLU-VA’s position is in support of the National Coalition Against Censorship, eight members of which signed onto a separate letter asking the governor to veto HB516.