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New legislation pushes for parental input in Virginia school libraries

Del. Tim Anderson says there are too many “sexually explicit” books in school libraries and parents should have a say in whether their children access them.

RICHMOND, Va. — Concerns over “sexually explicit books” in school libraries have made their way to the General Assembly. 

A Virginia Beach lawmaker wants parents to have more say over what books their child can check out of the school library.

New legislation from Del. Tim Anderson would require school librarians to catalog books with explicit content so parents can decide which books their children can – or cannot – read. 

“We’re not talking about written books, we’re talking about picture/graphic novels that have actual depictions of sexual intercourse," Anderson said.

Among the books, Anderson takes issue with are titles like "Gender Queer," "The Handmaid’s Tale" graphic novel, and "Assassination Classroom."

House Bill 1379 would give parents more control over the school library check-out process by letting them opt their children out of accessing certain books.

Those on the other side say people are looking at the books out of context and banning the books may have the opposite effect on readers and will instead push more children to seek them out.

“We’re not trying to ban books that deal with racial injustice, we’re not trying to deal with books that talk about uncomfortable things," Anderson said. "We’re trying to ban books that have images that are so harmful to minors that it would be a crime for me to go out to a playground and show them to children, but they’re in school libraries.”

He said parents should have a say in whether their children can access these books at school.

“When we read them, they were so graphically explicit, we had to excuse all of the minors that were in the Chamber because it would have been a crime for me to read those books in the presence of minors. They are that bad,” Anderson said.

Last May, school leaders with Virginia Beach City Public Schools and Chesapeake Public Schools removed "Gender Queer" from school libraries after community members raised concerns about the contents.

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