January 6, 2017

Virginia Board of Ed proposal replicates vetoed “Beloved bill”



To Kill a Mockingbird was briefly pulled from Accomack County classrooms after a parent complained about its sexual content.

Virginia parents are really concerned about what their children are reading.

A new proposal to restrict sexually explicit literature in Virginia schools sounds eerily similar to a bill vetoed by the state’s governor Terry McAuliff last year. The Washington Post’s Gregory S. Schneider and Moriah Balingit report that Virginia’s Board of Education is “drafting rules that would require schools to red-flag objectionable teaching material and make it easier for parents to control what books their children see in the classroom.”

The proposed regulations apparently “cover the same ground” as the so-called Beloved bill, which McAuliff vetoed over “concerns about the real-life consequences of [the] legislation’s requirements,” raising questions about why the Board of Education would re-introduce measures that failed to be passed into state law. As we covered on MobyLives, the initial bill gained its nickname over a Fairfax County parent’s objection that her high-school-age son was reading Toni Morrison’s Civil War-era novel Beloved, and the new initiative also stems from parents’ objections to the books their children were reading in school, including classics like To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn (both briefly banned from Accomack County classrooms after parental complaints this month, the Post reported).

All of this is part of what seems like a never-ending crusade in certain states (see, also, Tennessee) to give parents sweeping control to dictate curriculums according to their own fears and biases, regardless of what that means for free speech, not to mention foundational works of American literature. The board will decide on the measures on January 26, and, according to the Post, McAuliffe has implied he’ll support their decision.


Kait Howard is a publicist at Melville House.