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Loudoun County schools to require parental notification before exposing kids to sexually explicit content

Loudoun County, School Board, Viginia
A woman sits with her sign during a Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) board meeting in Ashburn, Virginia, on October 12, 2021. |

The Loudoun County School Board in Virginia, which has faced parent protests in recent years that have garnered national headlines, will now require schools to notify parents when their children may be exposed to sexually explicit material.

The Washington, D.C., suburban area school board adoptedPolicy 5055 Tuesday, requiring "parental notification of instructional materials with sexually explicit content." The policy seeks to bring the school district into compliance with the Virginia Department of Education's model policies relating to instructional materials with sexually explicit content enacted this year. 

Policy 5055 states: "At least thirty days prior to the intended use of any instructional materials with sexually explicit content, schools shall provide notice to parents that (i) specifically identifies the instructional materials with sexually explicit content, (ii) informs parents of their right to review such instructional materials, and (iii) informs parents of their right to have their child use, in a non-punitive manner, alternative, instructional materials that do not include sexually explicit content." 

The policy identified course syllabi, email notices, newsletters and "learning management systems" as methods for informing parents of the impending use of sexually explicit material as part of the school curriculum.

The policy defines such content as "(i) any description of or (ii) any picture, photograph, drawing, motion picture film, digital image or similar visual representation depicting sexual bestiality, [or] a lewd exhibition of nudity," "sexual excitement, sexual conduct or sadomasochistic abuse" and "coprophilia, urophilia, or fetishism." 

The policy authorizes the creation of a "current list of instructional materials with sexually explicit content intended to be used in classroom instruction, by grade and subject on the LCPS website." Before creating the list, the school district will review materials to determine whether they contain content that could be regarded as sexually explicit. 

As The Christian Post reported, Virginia lawmakers passed Senate Bill 656, signed into law by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin in April.

The law ordered the Virginia Department of Education to formulate model policies for school boards across the state to emulate regarding "parental notification of any instructional material that includes sexually explicit content" by July 31. It required individual school districts to adopt such policies by Jan. 1, 2023. 

Concerned parents have descended on school board meetings in Virginia and the United States in recent years to oppose books and other materials in school libraries and curricula they believe include sexually explicit content. 

One book, Gender Queer, has garnered particular outrage for its graphic depiction of a minor performing oral sex on an adult male. 

In neighboring Fairfax County, Virginia, parent Stacy Langton addressed the school board to condemn the inclusion of Gender Queer and the book Lawn Boy at high school libraries in the largest school district in the state. While the school district shelved the books to conduct a review, it ultimately reinstated them last November.

Last year, Loudoun County School Board enacted a policy allowing trans-identified students to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity instead of their biological sex. The policy also requires teachers to refer to trans-identified students by their preferred pronouns and names.

Policy 8040 was enacted despite parents' concerns about a boy wearing a skirt having sexually assaulted a girl in a district high school bathroom. 

At a heated school board meeting where the board was hearing comments on the proposed Policy 8040, the school district maintained that no such assaults had occurred in school bathrooms. 

However, the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office insisted that district leadership knew of the assault. A local news outlet obtained an email written by Superintendent Scott Ziegler informing school board members on the day of the assault that "a female student alleged that a male student assaulted her in the restroom" earlier that day. 

The perpetrator of the spring 2021 sexual assault went on to commit an additional assault at another high school in the district, where he was transferred following the first assault. The second incident occurred after the approval of the bathroom policy. 

Loudoun County Public Schools also made headlines in 2021 for suspending a Christian teacher who voiced concern about proposed policy 8040, specifically its requirement for teachers to address students by their preferred names and pronouns.

Leesburg Elementary School teacher Byron "Tanner" Cross stood before the school board to say that he could not in good conscience comply with the policy because of its direct contradiction with the tenets of his Christian faith. He was placed on leave shortly after that but reinstated as part of a court settlement

Parental outrage over the inclusion of sexually explicit material, LGBT ideology and racial elements in school curricula has sparked national grassroots movements to elect school board candidates who will oppose such ideologies.

In Loudoun County, the Broad Run district elected Tiffany Polifko as its school board member last month. 

Polifko's campaign website highlighted her concerns about "the increase of political and ideological influence in [the] curriculum" and the promotion of "ideas, attitudes, and opinions that may be in direct conflict with parent values."

Polifko's victory comes a year after Youngkin won the Virginia gubernatorial race over his Democratic opponent, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Some pundits believe the debate over parental rights in education played a significant role in Youngkin's victory after McAuliffe made national headlines for suggesting that he doesn't "think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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