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(NEW YORK) – As cultural debates over book access rage in school districts across the country, a Republican lawmaker in Virginia hopes to make it easier for parents to control what their children read in school libraries. public.

“In commonwealth school libraries, there are books that are in the libraries that are extremely sexual in nature,” Virginia delegate Tim Anderson told ABC News.

“We need to give parents more authority over schools and what their children have access to while they are in school,” he added.

Anderson, a Republican who represents parts of the cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach, said he plans to introduce a bill that would identify titles containing “sexual content” and implement a rating system for books by library that would be basically motion-based. Picture Association Film Rating System. Books would be marked with “Parental Advisory Warning” labels and parents could prevent their children from reading books with a particular rating.

He said the titles would be rated from G, suitable for all audiences, to R, which limits content to children under 17. If a child is 17 years old, they may access content under the supervision of a parent or guardian.

“It puts the parents back in the driver’s seat,” Anderson said of his bill.

Anderson, a lawyer, filed a lawsuit in May to try to stop Barnes & Noble bookstores from selling books containing sexual content to children. The lawsuit, which was dismissed last month by a Virginia Beach Circuit Court judge, named a graphic novel Gender Queer and A court of mist and fury — two books that have been challenged or banned in various school districts across the country.

According to ABC’s Hampton, Va. affiliate WVEC-TV, Judge Pamela Baskervill dismissed the case because Virginia law does not grant circuit courts the power to determine whether a book is obscene to viewers. minors.

Anderson said that since the failed lawsuit, he was “now looking for a legislative solution.”

Virginia State Senator Ghazala Hashmi, a Democrat, told WJLA-TV, an ABC affiliate in Washington, DC, that the potential bill is “deeply concerning.”

“I’m concerned about this subset of parents who think they can legislate what children read and whose children can read those materials,” Hashmi said. “The overwhelming majority of books we see targeted are by minority community authors or LGBTQ authors. And it’s unfortunate that they continue to push their particular point of view on other families.”

Yael Levin-Sheldon, a parent in Virginia and communications manager for No Left Turn in Education, told ABC News that the nonprofit is part of a national coalition advocating for a grading system and “fully supports” Anderson’s proposal.

“We believe strongly in the First Amendment and the right of parents to direct their children’s education,” Levin-Sheldon said. “Appropriately labeling books by content, as is the case with movies, is a sensible way to allow parents to decide which books are acceptable for their own children, without imposing their standards and values ​​on other parents. and their children.”

The books have been banned in at least 26 states and 86 school districts, including at least seven in Virginia, according to PEN America, a nonprofit organization that works to advance free speech through literature.

A PEN America report documenting book bans in school libraries and classrooms between July 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022, shows that the surge in bans reflects a “disproportionate targeting of books by or on people whose identities and stories have traditionally been underrepresented in children’s books”. and literature for young adults, such as people of color, LGBTQ+ people, or people with disabilities.”

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signed into law a bill in April that would give parents the power to remove their children from educational content in classrooms deemed “sexually explicit”.

The Republican governor hailed the signing of Senate Bill 656 as fulfilling “my day one promise to give parents greater influence over the education of their children.”

But critics who have opposed the legislation have argued that what qualifies as “sexually explicit” is too vague and that the law would make it easier for conservative advocates and organized groups to target and censor LGBTQ+ content.

“While SB 656 does not explicitly censor taught books, it places teachers and librarians in the unenviable position of having to determine whether a book is eligible for policies,” the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement on April 8. will most likely result in censorship due to teacher and librarian fear or confusion over what qualifies as “sexually explicit content”.

Anderson, a father of three, argued the law gave “parents back their rights” by giving them more authority over the material taught to their children in the classroom. He now hopes his bill, which he plans to introduce in the coming weeks, will do the same with regard to books available in public school libraries.

“This is not about gay, trans or straight literature,” he said, pushing back against the argument that the bill could lead to censorship. “It’s about literature and books with sexual content.”

Anderson’s proposed legislation is one of several state initiatives aimed at giving parents more control over the materials their children have access to in schools.

As children returned to class this fall, Bedford County School Libraries in Virginia launched a new notification system that allows parents to receive alerts about books their children are borrowing from the library.

“In response to some concerns raised by a community member about library and curriculum content, we really had a year-long conversation about how we can be more transparent and educate parents,” Shawn said. Trosper, program director. and instruction for the school system, according to ABC’s Lynchburg affiliate, WSET-TV.

Levin-Sheldon, who leads the Virginia chapter of No Left Turn in Education, told ABC News she supports the alert system and hopes it will be implemented in other counties in the state.

“At the end of the day, we just want parents to have a choice about what their kids are exposed to,” she said. “Because this choice is ours…this right is ours.”

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