Free speech groups urge McAuliffe to veto book bill

Free speech groups urge McAuliffe to veto book bill

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Free speech groups are calling on Gov. Terry McAuliffe to veto a bill that would force schools to notify parents if their child is assigned to read books with sexually explicit content.

The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), along with groups such as the American Booksellers for Free Expression and the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom, says the bill "relies on a standard that is both over-inclusive and vague" and includes titles such as Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales," Anne Frank's "The Diary of a Young Girl" and most publications by William Shakespeare.

The legislation was sparked by a Fairfax County mother who objected to her son reading Toni Morrison's "Beloved" in his English class in 2013. The novel is about a former slave who kills her daughter rather than return her to slavery.

House Bill 516, first sponsored by Republican Del. Steve Landes, permits parents "to review instructional material that includes sexually explicit content" and requires schools to provide alternatives if the parent objects.

The free speech groups sent a letter to the governor this week that says "singling out material with a certain type of content inevitably creates a biased perspective and casts a negative light on the material regardless of its educational value."

Many school divisions in Virginia already have similar policies in place, but there's no law in place.

McAuliffe has not said whether or not he supports the bill. He has until April 11 to act on the bill.

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