New version of ‘Beloved’ bill passes house committee

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Lawmakers in the House Education Committee on Wednesday passed a new version of the so-called ‘Beloved’ bill that was vetoed by the governor last year.

“Parents have the main responsibility for the education of their children,” Fairfax mother Laura Murphy argued during Wednesday’s session.

It’s a proposal that started with Murphy several years ago after she tried to get Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved’ removed from the school system because of graphic material in the book her son had read. She was unable to, but since then she’s worked with lawmakers to require schools to notify parents of any sexually explicit material in the classroom.

“If for whatever reason you do not want to read graphic descriptions of rape or beastiality or incest, you will be given an alternative,” Murphy said.

Critics have said it could lead to censorship by making teachers hesitant to use certain books.

“This bill clearly doesn’t ban anything what it says is that mom and dad have the opportunity to have a say in what their children are going to learn,” said Chris Freund with The Family Foundation who support the measure.

Unlike last year’s bill, the new version defines what sexually explicit means.

“That makes it very easy for the school systems and the teachers to know what would need to be maybe notify the parent about,” said the bill’s sponsor, Delegate Steve Landes of Augusta County.

Claire Guthrie-Gastanaga with the ACLU of Virginia, however, calls the bill overreaching and unnecessary.

“The fact that the general assembly is going to define it may make the bill worse than last year’s bill,” she said. “There is nothing that stops any parent from seeking to know what their child is reading and learning in school and communicating with the teachers in the school about what they do or do not want their child to read.”

8News reached out to the governor’s office to see if had any position on the new version of the bill but have yet to hear back.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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