Warren County School Board Hears Book Concerns | Every day

A handful of Warren County residents raised concerns this week about a book in high school libraries that some parents called “pornographic,” while others warned that the ban on the novel amounted to censorship.

The school board heard from parents and other county residents during the public comment period at its meeting on Wednesday. Finance Director and Council Clerk Robert Ballentine also read the residents’ letters.

President Kristen J. Pence, Vice President Ralph A. Rinaldi, and Members Antoinette D. Funk, Andrea M. Lo, and Melanie C. Salins attended the meeting.

Salins refuted accusations that she would want the books banned, but agreed with some concerned parents that the novel cited at the meeting, ER Frank’s “Life Is Funny,” contained pornography.

“No one has the constitutional right to show another person’s child pornography,” Salins said.

Internet filters prevent children from watching pornography or certain YouTube content, Salins said.

“So parents are sending their children to school assuming that they will be protected from adult, graphic, erotic and sexual content,” Salins said. “Parents cannot deny their child books that they don’t even know are in our libraries.”

Salins noted that the division offers individuals a way to challenge the books.

“I have no ability to ban a book on my own,” Salins said. “It’s about getting the ball rolling and parents know what’s out there and what the process is.”

“Life is funny” is available in high school libraries, not colleges, Superintendent Christopher Ballenger said by phone Thursday, correcting a statement made by a speaker at the board meeting. The division offers a way on its website to search for specific books in any of the school libraries, he added.

Ballenger explained during the meeting that no books were removed from the library shelves.

“A parent shared a list of books they were concerned about with the board via email requesting a policy that covers screening and review,” Ballenger said. “Headmasters have asked librarians to remove the books so they can review them, but the books are still in circulation.”

In accordance with the policy, persons wishing to revise books or materials express their complaint to school staff, who then notify the principal. The individual arranges a meeting with the principal during which the administrator instructs him to submit his complaint in writing using a form provided by the division. Once the principal receives the completed form, an ad hoc committee reviews the complaint; reads the book in question in its entirety; verifies general acceptance of material by reading reviews and consulting recommended lists, determines how well the book supports the program; and completes the checklist for the school committee’s review of library teaching materials. The principal reviews the checklist and decides what to do about the material. The complainant may request further review by the school board and superintendent if they disagree with the principal’s decision.

At the meeting, Harmony Hollow Road resident Wendy Kurtz read an excerpt from the book that contained profanity and other language describing sexual acts that some parents deemed inappropriate. The children in the audience were taken out of the lecture hall during the reading.

“It’s not about, you know, providing diversity for our kids,” Kurtz said. “It’s printed pornography.”

However, Geneviève Roesch of Front Royal, reading a written statement, spoke out against what she saw as censorship.

“Adult discomfort should never take precedence over quality education,” Roesch read. “Children who read widely about topics that open the world to them are not more likely to engage in dangerous behaviors and do not suffer from mental health problems as a result of this reading material.

“Children who process this content, supported by an adult guide, are more able to cope with adversity and have more empathy for their fellow human beings,” Roesch read. “Do you want to protect your children from the idea that there might be teenage prostitutes, human trafficking, teenage transgender couples, same-sex parents? The reality is that these things are part of our world.

In her letter, North River District resident Angela Robinson thanked and commended the school librarians for their service.

“With the latest political coup of wanting to ban books that are in our school libraries, I thought it was so important to recognize what our librarians do, day in and day out,” Ballenger read.

Erin Kennedy, Happy Creek District resident and parent, read a written statement to the board regarding her concerns about a recent Facebook post from Salins. Kennedy said Salins claims high school libraries house graphic, adult erotic fiction that the member calls smut.

“Isolated passages that you find explicit or graphic that I suggest are not central to the works as a whole and are used by the authors to illustrate the sometimes ugly and very real world in which they lived or observed,” Kennedy said. .

Children see far more “objectionable” material on social media than is available in school libraries, Kennedy said.

“Where does this worry come from?” Kennedy said. “Did a group of parents get in touch with a genuine concern about the books in our school library, or are you assuming an issue based on a list of books of concern pushed by a national political action network? ” Kennedy said. “If a large number, let’s say a majority, of parents unite around the idea of ​​removing certain books from our libraries, that would be one thing. However, I would be appalled to learn that a school board member has fabricated a problem within our community based on political agendas that do not directly impact our students.

Kennedy went on to say that as an American, she views efforts to limit free speech and independent thought as “unpatriotic.”

“In short, I view trying to remove age-appropriate materials from school shelves as censorship,” Kennedy said. “I also believe that parents have the right to decide what is good for their own children but not for mine.”

Janet Brome, a former Warren County public school teacher, also spoke out against the book ban and echoed some of Kennedy’s statements. Brome urged the board to support transparency in the school system, not censorship.

“Certainly banning gender and race books from our public institutions deprives others of the right to examine the full scope of human existence,” Brome said. “If what you personally believe has merit, it will stand up to scrutiny without having to eliminate access to what others would like to understand better.”

Eric Bartok of North River called the snippet pornography and said he originally planned to read it but changed his mind.

“It’s terrible when people try to say this is a First Amendment issue,” Bartok said. “It’s about protecting kids from things they don’t need to be exposed to.”

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