RICHMOND — Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Monday vetoed a bill that would have made Virginia the first state to allow parents to block their children from reading books in school that contain sexually explicit material.
The measure became known in the General Assembly as the “Beloved” bill because supporters have cited that seminal work of fiction by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison as an example of a book too graphic for some students.
The legislation would have required K-12 teachers to identify classroom materials with “sexually explicit content” and notify parents, who would have been able to “opt out” their children and request that the teacher give them an alternative assignment.
McAuliffe (D) said a state law is “unnecessary” because the Virginia Board of Education is considering changing state policy to accommodate parents’ concerns.
“School boards are best positioned to ensure that our students are exposed to those appropriate literary and artistic works that will expand students’ horizons and enrich their learning experiences,” he said in the veto message.
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The National Council of Teachers of English and the National Coalition Against Censorship opposed the bill; the conservative Family Foundation of Virginia favored it.About half of Virginia school districts require teachers to give parents warning of “potentially sensitive or controversial materials in the classroom,” according to a 2013 survey by the state Department of Education.
As the Framers of the Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment comprehended, representatives serve all residents, not just those eligible or registered to vote. Nonvoters have an important stake in many policy debates—children, their parents, even their grandparents, for example, have a stake in a strong public-education system—and in receiving constituent services, such as help navigating public benefits bureaucracies. By ensuring that each representative is subject to requests and suggestions from the same number of constituents, total population apportionment promotes equitable and effective representation.The court leaves for another day the question of whether states can choose to deviate from One Person, One Vote in state legislative apportionment, and Justices Alito and Thomas concurred separately to suggest that they’d be open to it, should that case arise someday.
(This case did not concern federal reapportionment, which is governed by the clear language of the Fourteenth Amendment: “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed.”)
Also, Justice Thomas—proving yet again he’s his own brand of jurisprudential crazy—concurred separately to explain that he’s still not sure why One Person, One Vote should be required, and that states should be free to do whatever they want. For real.