As a retired teacher, I felt compelled to attend the July 26 meeting of the Central Bucks School District that would involve a vote regarding censorship of books in the school libraries. Unfortunately, the “ducks were in a row” before anyone entered the boardroom.
Current and former students of the district, librarians, teachers, parents, and concerned citizens eloquently presented rationale to vote NO to item 109.2. The majority of those, who spoke at both the rally and the session that followed, were not in favor of putting the proposed policy in place. I, believe that they represented most of the parents, teachers, and librarians in the district.
Of deep concern to me were the following:
Lack of transparency – When asked where the policy originated or who drafted the policy the superintendent, chair of the policy committee, and all other board members couldn’t or wouldn’t answer the question.
A policy that favors parents already exists – Ever since the ‘70s in the CBSD if a parent wanted to restrict his or her own child’s material, that could be checked out of any school library, they have been able to do so. All a parent needed to do was to give the librarian a list or ask a teacher for an alternate assignment if they found the topic objectionable. If the parent didn’t receive satisfaction from the librarian or classroom teacher, the recourse was to meet with the principal and next the superintendent, who would make the final decision.
Trust in leadership is lacking – When pressed during the meeting, the superintendent told the audience that he would appoint a panel vs. one individual to review books that make the list of challenged reading material. This was not part of the motion as passed. As it now stands, one person can arbitrarily decide for all students, not just one’s own child, whether a book falls into the objectionable category. More discussion revealed that the superintendent sent a position letter to local media on behalf of the school board without the knowledge and/or approval of three of its members.
Public relations expenditure – The board was seeking to budget for a PR firm to make the policy more palatable to taxpayers. This is a definite indication that those, who voted on behalf of the policy, understand that this is not a stance that the majority of the taxpayers favor.
Policy 109.2 is in violation of both the First Amendment and the National School Library Standards. It sets a dangerous precedent; is unnecessary; and diminishes the reputation of the Central Bucks School District.
We need to be vigilant regarding the self-interests of those who represent us. We need to be informed, advocate, and elect candidates who are committed to intellectual freedom and expression.
Karen J. Young, Doylestown Township