Youngkin Signs 100 Bills, Including Bill Requiring Notification to Parents of Sexually Explicit Instructional Material In Schools

Facing an April 11 deadline, Governor Glenn Youngkin signed over 100 bills last week, including State Senator Siobhan Dunnavant’s (R-Henrico) SB 656, a bill requiring Virginia public schools to notify parents about sexually explicit instructional material, allow parental review, and provide non-explicit alternatives. The bill instructs the Department of Education to create model policies and requires school boards to pass similar policies.

“These kinds of materials that are being presented in school as an opportunity to develop that relationship between the parent and the child, talk about uncomfortable and challenging things,” Dunnavant said in the Senate Committee on Education and Health in February. “We heard in testimony from the subject matter experts that there was not a consistent policy across the school boards in Virginia, and that it was extremely variable. And as a result, having clear guidelines from the Department of Education would accomplish exactly what everybody thinks already exists, but it doesn’t.”

State Senators Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) and Lynwood Lewis Jr. (D-Accomack) helped Republicans pass the bill out of the Democrat-controlled education committee, and were the only Democratic votes for the bills on the Senate floor. Virginians have been debating the issue of controversial materials both at the local school board level and in statewide elections. Former Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed a similar bill during his term, and that record became an issue during the 2021 election cycle when outrage over sexually explicit books in schools and the need to increase parental oversight in schools became a key Republican issue. Democrats highlighted books by black authors that were among those targeted by Republicans, and warned that the calls to ban certain materials smacked of book-burning.

When voting for the bill in committee, Petersen said, “You know we’re supposed to say the buzzwords, but this is a parental notification. So I don’t have a problem with the legislation.”

Youngkin also signed several safe haven bills, expanding options for surrendering newborns to authorities. Delegate Buddy Fowler (R-Hanover) and State Sen. Frank Ruff, Jr. (R-Mecklenberg) sponsored HB 16 and SB 63, allowing parents to deliver newborns 30 days old or younger to newborn safety devices at emergency medical services. Delegate Matthew Fariss (R-Campbell) sponsored HB 50, requiring the Department of Social Services to create a toll-free, 24-hour hotline with information about safe haven laws for surrendering an infant.

The list also included several elections-related bills, including State Sen. David Suetterlein’s (R-Roanoke) SB 3 requiring absentee results to be reported by precinct; that’s a key change Suetterlein has pushed for to bring clarity to absentee results, which are currently collected into one precinct in each area instead of allowing detailed precinct-level analysis like other votes.

“When the result of all those votes are cast in a murky central absentee pool, instead of by the voter’s actual precinct, it creates a false picture of the actual election results on election night,” Suetterlein told The Virginia Star in December. “In several places, election-night mirages were produced and longtime election observers were misled to think the results were almost certain when they saw almost every precinct in a community report except one or two when those remaining were in fact central absentee pools that had, in some cases, a majority of all the ballots.”

“It also leads to false views of what happened in individual precincts because significant numbers of voters there chose to vote early, and it would make a lot more sense to count their votes with their neighbors in the precinct results so the collective political actions of that neighborhood can be viewed,” he said.

In a Saturday press release, Youngkin highlighted another bill he signed this week: Petersen’s SB 8, allowing Sunday hunting on public land more than 200 feet away from places of worship.

“This legislation encourages Virginians to take full advantage of the many outdoor opportunities our great Commonwealth has to offer,” Youngkin said. “This legislation will open up new opportunities for hunters to enjoy the sport they love.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Glenn Youngkin” by Glenn Youngkin.


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