In Fairfax County, Virginia, the largest school division in the state appointed a sex therapist known for her advocacy of BDSM and kink-affirming practices, Laila Cooper, to a committee responsible for reviewing parents’ complaints about potentially inappropriate books. This decision, made by Fairfax County School Board chair Karl Frisch, a prominent gay activist, placed Cooper on the Challenged Materials Interdepartmental Review Committee, which evaluates books and media questioned by Fairfax County or City residents.
Cooper’s professional background includes working with the LGBTQIA community, individuals of color, and those interested in non-traditional sexual practices, as per her statements. She emphasizes a non-judgmental, affirming approach to sex and gender issues, including kink/BDSM and polyamory. Beyond her sex therapy practice, Cooper has also provided documentation for gender surgery and psychological evaluations for immigrants seeking asylum.
The appointment of Cooper has sparked controversy among parents and community members, with some expressing concern that her perspectives on sexuality might influence the committee’s decisions regarding what materials are deemed appropriate for school environments. Despite these concerns, Cooper stepped down from her role on the committee to avoid causing political harm to Frisch and the board’s work, leaving questions about the intersection of educational material review processes and individual professional backgrounds.
Fairfax County Public Schools’ decision to involve Cooper in the book review process reflects the broader debates over educational content, particularly regarding how sexuality, gender, and diverse family structures are represented in school libraries and curricula. This incident has ignited discussions on the criteria for appointing individuals to positions of influence within the educational system and the balance between promoting inclusivity and addressing community standards.