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Sen. Edwards Votes To Keep “Pornography” In Schools, Parents In The Dark

Last September when then-candidate Terry McAuliffe uttered his now-famous line, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” in one moment he both sealed his political doom and put front and center the issue of parental rights.

As a part of the broader grassroots campaign to know what is taught in schools and why, and with online classes giving parents new insights into how their children have been educated, some Virginia parents have taken a fresh interest in what books are available in schools. As a result, some family members have been mortified to find materials they deem pornographic, even in middle schools where students as young as eleven or twelve attend.

As newly-inaugurated Virginia Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears has pointed out, issues of parents rights should not even be a partisan issue, as that authority is already enshrined in the Code of Virginia:

§ 1-240.1. Rights of parents. A parent has a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of the parent’s child.

Responding to the public outcry from outraged constituents, State Senator Bill DeSteph (R-8, Virginia Beach) introduced Senate Bill (SB) 275, “Public School Libraries printed and audio-visual materials selection, evaluation, check-out, etc.” in the current session of the General Assembly.  

On January 27, Sen. DeSteph spoke before the Senate Education and Health Committee, urging them to pass the bill in committee so the whole Senate could then vote on it. He cited how parental agreement is needed for youth to participate in school sports or attend a field trip.  Therefore, such agreement should also be required before students can be exposed to lewd content in schools. “I’m not trying to ban anything or burn anything. All I want to say is, let’s let the parents say it’s okay for my child to see this,” DeSteph explained.

“It’s pretty daggone close to book-banning, and it’s a serious infringement on First Amendment Rights, and I think the bill should be defeated” Senator John Edwards (D-21, Roanoke) remarked before scoffing derisively.

Moreover, Sen. Edwards’ comments ignored the distinction between removal of books and parental notification that Sen. DeSteph had tried to emphasize.

In the narrowly-divided Virginia Senate with 21 Democrats and 19 Republicans, the committee has a Democrat majority and they narrowly defeated the measure, 8-7.

Sen. Edwards represents the 21st District, an area heavily-gerrymandered in such a way as to essentially guarantee his continual re-election. Edwards’ Richmond office was asked for his statement about voting to keep sexually explicit in schools and if he believes most residents of Southwest Virginia favor such an act. No response has been received as of publication time.

Sen. John Cosgrove, (R-14, Chesapeake) a retired Naval officer, noted that the main issue in last fall’s campaign was parental rights and he called the material presented to the committee “absolutely disgusting.” 

You can watch part of the committee’s deliberations here, courtesy of Virginia for Educational Freedom. (Note: the video begins with comments by Senators DeSteph and Edwards, then shows images from the materials Sen. DeSteph presented, images and text that many would find pornographic and offensive. Viewer discretion is advised.)

–Scott Dreyer

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