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Question on Sexually Explicit School Library Books Upsets Virginia Parents

Question on Sexually Explicit School Library Books Upsets Virginia Parents

Banned books and Spotsylvania County Superintendent Mark Taylor

They say they can’t access their children’s school records without first answering a question they believe is political and asked in bad faith.

Parents in a Northern Virginia school district say they cannot access their school’s online portal unless they answer a question on the site about their children’s access to “sexually explicit” materials in school libraries.

Conservatives in the district had previously suggested burning books they disagreed with, and critics of the question believe this is an extension of that situation.

As parents in Spotsylvania County attempted to log on to the school’s portal, ParentVue, last week, they suddenly were asked to choose between the following options: “Yes, I want my child to have access to sexually explicit content in the school libraries” or “No, I do not want my child to have access to sexually explicit content in the school libraries,” Washington, D.C.’s NBC affiliate WRC reports.

Parents of students are required to answer this question on a page titled “Explicit Content Access” before getting access to their ParentVue account, which allows them to see their students' schedules, grades, and other important records.

Some parents showed the news station that they could not access their students’ records without first responding to the mandatory prompt.

Superintendent Mark Taylor denied to WRC that parents were blocked from accessing ParentVue unless they responded to the question.

“You’re mischaracterizing the truth,” he claimed. “Their access to ParentVue is not blocked. If they answer yes, if they answer no, if they don’t answer, their access to ParentVue is not blocked.”

But, many parents have reservations about responding to the question because there are no criteria defining what books or content in books are considered sexually explicit.

They are concerned that the question being framed the way it has been is confusing, misleading, and possibly a way to justify banning certain books, mostly about or by LGBTQ+ people.

“I feel like there is no way to answer this without giving them some sort of power. That’s what they are essentially doing. They are trying to empower their own agenda by making you think it’s giving you a choice,” said former Spotsylvania teacher Maria Garcia, a parent in the district.

Another mother, who selected yes as her response, explained why she wasn’t hesitant about the decision.

“I don’t want to limit the books they have in the library,” Michelle Beardsley told the station. “A lot of the books that other school systems have gotten rid of, I think, is absolutely ridiculous.”

Taylor explained in a message to parents why the question was posed.

“With nearly 400,000 volumes in our school libraries, we want to be vigilant about protecting the wishes of all SCPS parents,” Taylor wrote. He added, “Your decisions will help guide policy and ensure we respect your concerns and preferences.”

Taylor says the library’s online book checkout system tracks students whose parents prevent them from accessing sexually explicit material.

When Taylor was confronted with people’s concerns about the question, he said it was "a simple question."

“I disagree with the characterization that that’s a loaded question,” he said. “It’s a plain question. Do you want vanilla or chocolate? Coffee with cream or coffee black? Do you want your child exposed to this material or not?”

Spotsylvania County Public Schools conservative board members proposed banning and burning some LGBTQ+-themed school library books in late 2021. More than a dozen books have been culled since then.

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