ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A group of students in Virginia is working to pass out books they fear will be banned if a bill about sexually explicit content passes in the General Assembly.
The bipartisan bill gives the final say to parents on whether or not certain sexually explicit materials will be taught.
It would require districts to inform parents if there will be any such content in the curriculum and offer alternatives if requested.
Seniors at Fairfax County Public Schools, Jaya Nachnani and Matthew Savage, worry the bill will be used to target books that deal with tough issues, like race.
“It's just about freedom of speech, and being able to genuinely understand all perspectives of our history," Nachnani said.
Two of the books they worry will be targeted are Beloved and Maus, which explore slavery and the Holocaust, respectively.
Similar legislation was introduced in 2016, after a Fairfax County mom requested that the book Beloved be removed from her son's curriculum.
It became nicknamed "The Beloved bill," and passed through the General Assembly, with support from both Democrats and Republicans, until then Governor McAuliffe vetoed it.
The legislation became a hot button issue on the campaign trail, when now Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin called out McAuliffe for vetoing a bill that would give parents a bigger say over their children's curriculum.
He also featured that same Fairfax County mom in a campaign ad.
In regards to Maus, a Tennessee school board recently banned it from schools.
“It's censorship, plain and simple," Matthew Savage said.
The bill language specifically says "shall not be construed as requiring or providing for the censoring of books in public elementary and secondary schools."
Before it might be passed, a group that Savage volunteers with, Voters for Tomorrow, raised $5,000 to buy copies of the two books to hand out to students for free.
“Racism still exists, anti-Semitism still exists, and…we need to teach this history. And not only the history, how it still relates to the present and the work that's still to be done," Savage said.
Nachnani said the bill is actually inspiring students to read books they probably wouldn't have picked up before.
“I would have students running up to me asking me if I still had more books," she said.
They're hoping if the bill passes, they can help preserve the history in the pages of these books.
“We need to understand our past, so we can improve on the present and the future," Nachnani said.
The students are still handing out books if you want a copy.
The bill has passed the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, so the next step is for the GOP-controlled House to vote on it.
If it becomes law, it would take effect no later than July 31, 2022.