The Central Bucks School District has chosen a law firm that specializes in religious freedom and transgender rights cases to review its new library policy.
As it moves forward to implement its controversial book review policy, school directors asked the Harrisburg-based Independence Law Center for a “legal review” of the policy, the district said in a statement. The center’s work was provided for free, according to school officials.
The Independence Law Center is the legal arm of the conservative nonprofit Pennsylvania Family Institute, which, according to its website, “works to preserve religious liberty, promote marriage and the family, protect human life, and improve education and policy for our clients.”
Such legal reviews, the district said, are to “ensure (administrative regulations) are legally sound, aligned with school code and that the language is congruent with the corresponding policy’s goals.”
Under the policy, adopted in a 6-3 vote last July, library books in the state’s fourth largest school district will be reviewed to ensure “books are appropriate for the subject area and for the age, intellectual development, and ability level of the student for whom the material is selected and that salacious, graphic, explicit sexual content that is age-inappropriate is not on library shelves.”
Approval of the policy sparked community protests, claiming the policy introduced censorship and amounted to book banning.
Under the library review process, a book can be challenged by a parent or community member. The superintendent indicated a challenged book can stay on the shelves through the review process. If the book is found to be “age-inappropriate” and removed, it will be replaced with one “of the same genre or with a similar educational purpose,” according to a district statement.
Five books are being considered for removal under the policy, according to reporting by the Philadelphia Inquirer. They are: “Gender Queer,” by Maia Kobabe; “This Book is Gay,” by Juno Dawson; “Lawn Boy,” by Jonathan Evison; “Beyond Magenta,” by Susan Kuklin, and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” by Jesse Andrews.
The law center represented students in the Boyertown Area School District in 2018 who said their privacy rights were violated when transgender students were allowed to use the girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, leaving a federal Court of Appeals ruling permitting Pennsylvania school districts to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity standing.
Boyertown Area School District provides private bathrooms and locker rooms to all students who do not feel comfortable sharing such spaces, according to the lawsuit.
In 2021, the law center helped the Hempfield School District in Lancaster develop guidelines around transgender students’ participation in school athletic programs.