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Images Available in Virginia School Libraries Deemed Too Sexually Explicit for TV

Candidate for Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe speaks during his campaign rally in Dumfries, Va., October 21, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Local Virginia TV stations including ABC, CBS and NBC have refused to air an ad depicting sexually explicit materials that are widely available to students in school libraries in the state, citing federal law which prohibits airing pornographic images. 

“It’s shocking that images, and even some words, that federal law prohibits TV stations to share with adults are the same images being shared with Virginia students with no accountability,” said Victoria Coley, vice president of communications at Independent Women’s Voice (IWV), which created the ad.

The 30-second ad, titled “Worth 1,000 Words,” includes a full screen spread from Gender Queer by Maia Kobae, a book that was available in schools in several Virginia districts, including Fairfax, Loudon and Arlington, according to IWV.

IWV attempted to air the ad after 11 p.m. to show adults the shockingly explicit materials that students have access to in schools, but was told that federal law prohibits sharing pornographic images on air, even if they are aired late at night and for news purposes.

“Independent Women’s Voice has been told to stand down—that we are trying to push out inappropriate materials that violate federal regulations—when we are simply highlighting wildly inappropriate books in Virginia schools,” said IWV vice president Carrie Lukas. “All we want is to make sure that parents and citizens know what is happening in the schools they are paying for and trusting with their children.” 

IWV has since submitted a second ad with the sexually explicit material blurred out.

The ad notes that Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, who served as governor of Virginia from 2014 to 2018, vetoed a bill permitting parents to block sexually explicit books in school during his time in office.

Last month, during a debate with his Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, McAuliffe argued that parents should not tell schools what to teach.

The comment came in response to Youngkin’s remark that parents should be more involved in the decisions of local school districts during the second and final debate of the race.

“What we’ve seen over the course of this last 20 months is our school systems refusing to engage with parents,” Youngkin said. “In fact, in Fairfax County this past week, we watched parents so upset because there was such sexually explicit material in the library they had never seen, it was shocking.”

Youngkin noted that McAuliffe “vetoed the bill that would have informed parents that they were there.”

“You believe school systems should tell children what to do. I believe parents should be in charge of their kids’ education,” the Republican said to his opponent.

The former governor replied that parents would have “had the right to veto books” under the bill he vetoed.

“I’m not going to let parents come into schools, and actually take books out, and make their own decision,” McAuliffe said.

“Yeah, I stopped the bill that I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” he added.

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