Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Putting Out One Fire

Following up on yesterday’s post from Charlie Pierce, some common sense prevails.  Via the Washington Post:

A school board in Virginia has reversed a recent decision to remove “sexually explicit” books from school libraries after the move stirred community outrage and drew harsh national criticism — especially over two board members’ apparent suggestion to burn the books.

The Spotsylvania County School Board voted 5 to 2 Tuesday to rescind its decision, a week after two parents complained about inappropriate content. At the Nov. 8 meeting, the board unanimously directed Schools Superintendent S. Scott Baker to reconsider whether every sexually explicit book in school libraries should be kept or permanently removed — forcing a team of about three dozen staffers, including all of the district’s librarians, to start poring through tens of thousands of titles.

Board members Kirk Twigg and Rabih Abuismail voted against rescinding the decision.

On Monday, dozens of students, parents and teachers turned out to show their displeasure with the board. Some hoisted signs reading “Give back the books!” and “Books not bonfires,” according to the Free Lance-Star.

Many Spotsylvanians spoke during a public comment period that stretched for more than four hours. A high-schooler told the board that censorship is “contagious and leads to much worse,” according to the Free Lance-Star. A county librarian added, “If you have a worldview that can be undone by a novel, let me suggest that the problem is not the novel,” the Free Lance-Star reported.

Close to midnight, after public comment wound down, board member Baron Braswell proposed that the previous vote to remove sexually explicit texts “be rescinded immediately,” Braswell said in an interview, “and that was basically it.”

Although Braswell’s motion passed with a solid majority, he warned the decision may not hold for long, noting the board is gaining new members in January.

Braswell said he wanted to rescind the book removal because the school district’s attorney had informed the board it was probably unconstitutional. The attorney argued in a memo to board members Thursday that the removals would prevent children from reading about certain political ideas and social viewpoints, violating the right to free speech.

Braswell added that the school district already has procedures for dealing with parent complaints about books, and that he wants the books challenged at the Nov. 8 meeting to go through the established process. Braswell said he did not know about the existing system for challenged books last week — and if he had, would not have voted in favor of removing the sexually explicit texts.

“None of us, for certain, ever believed in censorship or burning books. That’s just not who we are,” Braswell said. “Everybody was caught off guard last week.”

It’s a reprieve, not a victory, because the forces of ignorance are a beast that forever needs feeding.

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