School Board Demeans Parents Over Controversial Books
On January 31, 2022, the Orange County NC School Board held a special meeting, reviewing the books Out of Darkness, Gender Queer, and Lawn Boy.
The board voted unanimously to keep these books in the public school libraries. The board then waived the procedure stating the status of the material as indefinitely approved, unable to be challenged after two years per the stated policy. Parents needed to be punished for raising concerns!
Towards the end of the meeting, board member Sarah Smylie implied that parental concern is a “distraction” from real work. To imply that parents are only doing this for the sake of “distraction” is incorrect. Trust me, there are better things I could be doing with my time than reading and researching these books. Parents, like myself, participate in this conversation because public school students deserve the highest quality academic and creative materials and resources available. These books do not meet that standard. This has nothing to do with the ethnicity or sexuality of the characters. This has to do with the level of discourse and gratuitous nature of the sexual and violent passages in these books. Plenty of books make people “uncomfortable” that absolutely should be kept in school libraries. For example, if the board members read anything by (minority) Thomas Sowell, they would probably feel “uncomfortable,” not because of grotesque sexual descriptions (of which there aren’t any), but because of his massive intellect and dealings with facts. And yet his books are not present in these school libraries. OCS has “weeded” books like Indian in the Cupboard because of “uncomfortable” stereotypes, yet on 1/31 all the board members emphasized they won’t “ban” books. These board members already have agreed to ban books -- readily and enthusiastically and just a few months ago.
Also, Ms. Smylie implies that parents are merely questioning these books as part of a larger well-funded racist effort. Parents are not parents, but members of well-funded political groups, bringing frivolous concerns on behalf of partisan politics, according to her uncited salvo. I am part of a volunteer parents’ rights organization. It is nonpartisan: a recent financial donation was given by a registered Democrat. Expecting a higher standard of intellectualism in public schools is a non-partisan issue. And we aren’t “well-funded” like Megan Squire of the SPLC (SPLC has over 150 million dollars in offshore accounts) or others from Equality NC -- specialty groups the Orange County School Board has used for policy decisions that are grossly partisan. For board members to make that claim without any research, self-examination, or direct discussion with people like me is close-minded, hardly “tolerant,” and outright incorrect (not to mention hypocritical).
Board member Bonnie Hauser asked a rhetorical question about “what parents are trying to accomplish or protect kids from?” For the meeting to close on this question is hilarious. Had Ms. Hauser not read the concerns of parents? This is not about whitewashing history or only wanting “Ozzie and Harriet” in the libraries as she infers. Perhaps Penthouse would make some teens feel better about their sexuality -- do Ms. Hauser and the board think that should be in school libraries under “diversity”? The best materials should be made available with a wide array of thoughts and perspectives. That is not happening in these libraries. Instead, schools are lowering themselves academically to include comic books of dildos, and “historical fiction” (I would argue that Out of Darkness is not historical, but I digress) rife with graphic details of sexual exploitation, masturbation, abuse, and violence. Not implied, but explicitly conveyed in graphic detail. Repeatedly.
Brenda Stephens, board vice-chair, declared parents only wanted to ban books specifically about history and minorities. That is patently false. In fact, school libraries don't go far enough in representing minority views. For example, Cedar Ridge High School, in which the books in question are located, does not carry authors such as Larry Elder, Walter Williams, John McWhorter, Candace Owen, Andrew Sullivan, among many others (per the media center online database).
These are black, gay, and female authors, and authors writing about historical racism that Cedar Ridge High School does not have in circulation. OCS libraries should have these books. Why don’t they? The truth is the “expert” librarians are only interested in some books by minorities, as is Ms. Stephens. It is the “experts” and the board members who are interested in suppressing viewpoints, not parents. For example, even though I disagree with Ibram X. Kendi, and find his ideas damaging and not based in fact, I never argue to remove his book, Stamped, from the school libraries (this despite the fact that Kendi has made transphobic and racist public comments that would “cancel” several others). His book does not contain the unnecessary graphic sexual and violent images that the three books in question do. I would argue, however, that there needs to be a balance of ideas and without books by authors listed above, the schools are shorting students on every level.
Bonnie Hauser and the rest of the board (and so many other school boards) should be asked this rhetorical question: “What are partisan progressive librarian “experts" and board members so afraid of, that they need to call parental concerns “distractions”, and suppress several minority-written books from the district libraries (as demonstrated above) while falsely claiming parents are racist in their concerns about graphic sexual material in school libraries?”
To call parents “racist” in this context, the usual illogical fallback argument for the left, is to lack any argument based on merit or critical thought.