More censorship on the horizon, but ingrained in politics
A new district-wide library book selection policy was officially announced on Tuesday, April 10th.
The policy will allow the school board to decide which books to place in all district libraries and allow the board to remove books that are already in libraries.
If a book is removed from the library, it will only be re-processed for at least 10 years.
The policy states: “The selection of materials is an ongoing process that involves the removal of collections that are no longer considered appropriate by the board or library manager at the district level or the designated supervisor, and the periodic replacement or repair of materials that still have educational value. ”
Much of the policy focuses on describing material that is considered “inappropriate”. For middle and high schools, it means “explicit written descriptions of sexual acts.” For elementary schools, “explicit or implied written descriptions of sexual acts.”
Maura McInerny, legal director of the Education Law Center, said the policy violates the right to freedom of expression of the first amendment. She said the ELC reviews the policy and informs the district’s parents about their rights.
“While certain restrictions are constitutionally permissible, that’s not what happens when students are told they can not borrow books from school because they have not been ‘approved,'” McInerny said.
Pennsylvania schools have banned books on more than 450 occasions in the past nine months, according to a new report from PEN America. It is the second highest total in the United States, after Texas.
“What we see in Pennsylvania is a cleansing,” McInerny said.
Kate Nazemi is the parent of two students in the district and has been a vocal opponent of the new policy for several months.
“The goal is LGBTQ [literature] because in much of the youth literature around it, it’s about relationships, and it’s about identity, ”Nazemi said. “And you have to talk about body parts and people who have romantic relationships, if you have to talk about that experience. So it’s a safe way to get rid of all those books. ”
Central Bucks parents have been reading passages from books they want removed from libraries since March. All of the books are listed on WokePa’s website, many by Black and LGBTQ authors, including Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye”.
District teachers, librarians, and parents turned up at Wednesday’s school board meeting for their political committee to express opposition to the draft.
Katherine Semisch, a retired English teacher from Central Bucks West High School, said the proposed policy puts a “stranglehold” on new books, in part because it requires the school board to read all the books before approval.
“The proposed policy favors the elimination of content rather than the inclusion of content,” Semisch said.
“Is it the job of the school to edit the world, to prevent children from learning the truth?”
She listed books such as ‘A Wing over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and parts of the Bible as works that would not qualify for libraries under politics.
Many are concerned about the lack of transparency from the board.
Chris Kehan is one of Warwick Elementary Schools librarians.
“When was this drafted? Who drafted it? Whose input was used? It’s clear that it has been cut and pasted from something else,” Warwick said.
The Bucks County Beacon recently reported that the policy was mostly a copy of a policy of the Texas Education Association.
Laura Ward, president of the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association, said she has not seen a policy like this before in Pennsylvania.
She said, “It’s heartbreaking,” especially for vulnerable students.
“If we remove things that reflect them, then we tell them we do not value them, we do not see them, we do not want to hear them,” Ward said.
Due to the widespread movement toward censorship in Pennsylvania, the PSLA recently formed an Intellectual Freedom Working Group to support any librarian facing censorship threats.