Virginia Senate passes bill allowing parents to opt children out of sexually explicit school material

(Tyler Arnold | The Center Square) – The Virginia Senate narrowly passed legislation that requires schools to notify parents of sexually explicit material in the coursework and allow parents to opt their children out of such assignments.

Senate Bill 656, sponsored by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, passed the chamber 20-18 with support from Republican leadership and a handful of Democrats. The legislation will now head to the House, which has a Republican majority. Gov. Glenn Youngkin strongly supports the legislation.

Dunnavant said during the floor debate that the legislation does not censor books, but rather puts authority in the hands of parents.

“This is not about literature,” Dunnavant said. “This is about parental notification. …Parents are the ones who have the final decision.”

The legislation would compel the Board of Education to establish the rule and require each local school board to comply with it. If a parent opts a child out of an assignment, the teacher would be required to provide an alternative assignment that does not contain any sexually explicit material.

During Youngkin’s campaign, he ran on increasing parental control in the education system, which included this type of legislation. Supporters claim the legislation allows parents to ultimately make decisions, but opponents claim it was a form of censorship and could prevent students from learning important things.