Virginia Senate passes bill to stop book bans and censorship in schools

Ghazala Hashmi’s bill is an amendment to Senate Bill 656 signed into law in 2022

Indian-origin Virginia State Senator’s proposed Bill SB235 passes, heads to House of Delegates for vote / X/@SenatorHashmi

The Virginia Senate passed Senate Bill 235 sponsored by Indian American State Senator Ghazala Hashmi with bipartisan support.

The bill cracks down on the censorship of sexually explicit materials in the classroom and details what school officials can and cannot do when it comes to dealing with resources as such.

SB 235 is an amendment to a section of the parent notification law or Senate Bill 656, signed into law on April 6, 2022. SB 656 included an enactment clause that states, “the provisions of this act shall not be construed as requiring or providing for the censoring of books in public elementary and secondary schools.”

Hashmi said the clause was not specific enough and resulted in school superintendents taking books off school shelves. SB 235 largely remains similar in wording to SB 656 but if passed, it will prevent books from being taken off shelves.

She issued a statement after the bill passed in the Senate and advanced to the House of Delegates for a vote. “I am pleased this legislation passed, but I am disappointed that some of my colleagues voted against it, putting partisan politics over good policy,” her statement read. The bill passed in the Senate with a vote of 22-18.

“Sadly we have seen an increase in attempts to censor and remove books from libraries across the Commonwealth and across the country….We must not tolerate the removal of books reflecting the diverse lived experiences and complex histories of our communities, and the passage of SB235 is a step in ensuring these stories and truths are told for generations,” Hashmi stated.