Youngkin signs bill regulating explicit content in schools

April 8, 2022

By SARAH RANKIN | April 8, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A bill that will require Virginia schools to notify parents if their children are assigned books or other materials with sexually explicit content was among more than 100 measures Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed into law this week, his office said Friday.

Youngkin held up the measure as part of an effort to fulfill a campaign pledge to empower parents’ involvement in their children’s education.

In a statement, he said he was pleased to sign it into law, “along with many other bipartisan bills that will enhance education, improve public safety, provide tax relief, and make government work better for the people of Virginia.”

The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, was one of Youngkin’s legislative priorities. It tasks the Department of Education with developing model policies for parental notification and making them available to school boards by July 31. Each school board must adopt the policies by Jan. 1, 2023, according to the measure, which uses a definition of sexually explicit content that already exists in state law. It also requires that students be given an alternative assignment at a parent’s request.

Democrats who objected to the bill argued that it smacked of censorship and that valuable pieces of literature would be targeted. Supporters emphasized that no books were being banned or censored and that the bill simply allows parents to be notified of explicit materials.

The measure cleared the Democrat-controlled Senate after two moderate Democrats joined with Republicans to advance it. It passed the GOP-controlled House on a party-line vote.

Youngkin faces an action deadline next week for measures passed during this year’s regular session of the General Assembly. Youngkin can sign or veto bills or send them back to lawmakers with proposed amendments. He has vetoed only one so far, according to the online legislative information system — a local policing oversight measure that involved only Arlington County.

Among the other measures the governor signed into law this week:

— A bill extending for at least two years the ability for dining establishments to sell cocktails to go. That flexibility was initially offered as a way to help businesses struggling with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

— A bill permitting hunting on public land on Sundays, as long as it takes place more than 200 yards (180 meters) from a place of worship.

— A series of animal welfare bills proposed in the wake of violations uncovered at a Cumberland County dog-breeding facility.