Parents group Moms for Liberty says it has “paused” all 17 challenges to books it considers too sexually explicit or sexually violent to be on the shelves of Fauquier County school libraries while the school division fixes “the problems in their book selection and contestation processes.”
“The system in place for addressing parental concerns with explicit materials in school libraries is simply inadequate for the volume of material that is being contested,” said Amie Bowman, treasurer for the Fauquier chapter of Moms for Liberty.
Changes in school division policies regarding how library books are selected and how parents can challenge books they regard as inappropriate are expected by the end of students’ winter break, School Board Chair Donna Grove (Cedar Run) said.
Fauquier County Public Schools’ policies currently do not have a required timeline for finishing a review of library books after parents request one.
A school division spokeswoman said the book challenges, which could have impacted six schools — Kettle Run High School, Liberty High School, Fauquier High School, Southeastern Alternative School, Marshall Middle School, and Warrenton Middle School — were “withdrawn.”
“Yes, we have received notification that all current book challenges have been withdrawn and schools have been notified,” said Tara Helkowski, spokeswoman for Fauquier County Public Schools. “It seems that those challenging have decided to approach the conversation differently,” she said.
Whether “withdrawn” or “paused,” Moms for Liberty in a news release dated Sept. 20said it looked forward to changes in policies regarding school library books. “During the School Board meeting on Sept. 12, Fauquier County Public Schools announced the need to revise and update school policies as they relate to sexually explicit content in classrooms and libraries,” the conservative group said in the release.
“This announcement comes after months of advocating for parental rights and educating both the board and parents in the community of the content issues in schools,” the news release says. “In addition, FCPS1 committed to a collaborative process that will include parents in a committee charged with crafting new policy.”
Moms for Liberty appeared to be referring to a brief statement Grove gave at the start of the Sept. 12 school board meeting.
“The board recognizes and hears the concern about increased input for parents around some of the content of what is in our libraries in schools and acknowledges that it is time to have a more meaningful dialogue,” Grove said at the meeting.
“This is not a conversation about censorship, but a broader conversation about how we might be able to make sensible changes that we can all agree upon that still allows for the choice that we value and gives parents increased information about the experiences their children are having in our schools,” she said.
Grove spoke about revising the school division’s policies around how library books are chosen, and the process for challenging books that some parents may consider inappropriate. “So, it’s time to have that discussion about revision of these policies,” Grove said.
Grove quoted an author of one of the challenged books as saying all parents have the right to determine what is appropriate for their own children to read, but they do not have the right to determine what is OK for other people’s children to read.Grove did not name the author, but Ashley Hope Perez, who wrote “Out of Darkness” (one of the recently challenged books), said the same in an interview with the Fauquier Times.
“We will be placing this topic on the (school board) summit agenda for November to nail down the specifics of how the policy conversation will move forward,” Grove said. “We expect that we will have this done by the winter break, with the hopes of beginning the work in January.”
In its release, Moms for Liberty also said it was looking forward to seeing the division’s new policy requiring teachers to notify parents if their children are assigned "sexually explicit materials" in class and allowing parents to request alternate assignments. A new state law mandates all school divisions have a such a policy in place by Jan. 1, 2023.
The policy would not stop students from picking books off the shelves of their school library to read on their own, but it might impact school-wide reading initiatives or book clubs, among other things, Associate Superintendent Major Warner said. School officials are seeking legal advice, he said.
The 17 books Moms for Liberty challenged in July and August are still awaiting school-based reviews. That is the first level of escalation if parents are not satisfied with simply contacting their school librarian. The librarian can prohibit a child from checking out a particular book. Such “opt-out” policies are common in school districts nationwide.
Reach Colleen LaMay at email@example.com