VLA Statement on HB 516

The VLA Executive Committee, Legislative Committee, and Intellectual Freedom Committee have been communicating with various stakeholders, including ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom and various educators’ associations, regarding HB 516. To our knowledge, the Virginia Education Association has not, to date, made an official statement about the bill; the Virginia Association of Teachers of English (VATE), an affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English has drafted this statement in opposition to the bill: http://vate.org/official-position-on-house-bill-516/ . The bill has been receiving a great deal of press and an article about it is featured on the front page of today’s Washington Post: . It has passed the House and is scheduled to go before the Senate today.

  • We believe the concerns that led to the drafting of HB 516 would be better addressed through local Board of Education policy rather than prescribed by law of the Commonwealth of Virginia, both to protect the interests of all stakeholders and to provide for flexibility when necessary.
  • We support parents being actively involved in their children’s education; at the same time, we believe labeling places the weight of responsibility wrongly on teachers to make judgements about what a diverse range of parents may or may not deem “sexually explicit.”
  • We believe institutional labeling of books or media (by policy or law) is a form of censorship. We believe parents, students, and teachers can work together to make the best choice when there is a disagreement about what is age appropriate for an individual student.
  • We believe this legislation could turn institutional labeling into self-censoring by educators or others in an effort to avoid the conflicts and challenges intended, thereby depriving students the opportunity to be exposed to a wider range of viewpoints to choose from in developing their personal opinions. Decreasing the range of viewpoints discourages the promotion of diversity and diminishes intellectual rigor.

We encourage all of our members to read the bill (http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?161+ful+HB516) and to contact your legislators if your conscience directs you to do so.
The VLA 2016 Executive Committee,
The VLA Legislative Committee and
The VLA Intellectual Freedom Committee
February 25, 2016

Listen to VLA President Martha Hutzel's interview with Saraya Wintersmith of the Community Idea Stations, March 2, 2016