Troubling book policy looms over Central Bucks School District
Library Policy 109.2 empowers parents to challenge reading materials and restrict access to students.
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In a 6-3 vote, the Central Bucks School Board passed Library Policy 109.2 on the evening of July 22. This controversial measure would empower residents to challenge scholastic content found in any of the schools in the district through incredibly vague criteria.
In a hearing led by the school board, 30 members of the community were in attendance, where the majority of attendees expressed their opposition, with a few voices in favor.
Need to know
After a resident shares their concern, the district would attempt to resolve the matter informally via a “phone call,” after which the resident may issue a formal challenge by filling out a form where the petitioner can express why the content is inadequate as it relates to the grade level and library offering.
The district did not offer specific guidelines surrounding what constitutes inappropriate or inadequate material, but said that the details would be worked out in a “later meeting.” According to a Courier Times article, parents had the ability to raise concerns regarding “age-appropriate content” but complained that said restrictions were not necessarily enforced.
Preliminary guidelines state that a “district-level library supervisor or superintendent’s designee” will review individual complaints before making any determinations and prevent the removal of books haphazardly.
The Superintendent has tasked district staff with preventing the removal of “classics,” focusing solely on “visual or visually implied depictions of sexual acts or simulations of such acts,” and protecting a principle selection. However, the policy does not outline what terms qualify books to fall under that category.
"While individuals do not have the right to control the materials that libraries possess, they do have the right to submit a formal request to their local library for reconsideration of their materials," said Casey Smith, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
"Particularly in the case of school libraries, while curriculum content is determined by each school district and charter school in Pennsylvania, honoring the dignity of others and enabling learners to read and hear stories that reflect their personal experiences remains a mainstay in education and an important part of the role of school libraries. We know that to do their best, students must feel safe and that they belong at school – and PDE wholly supports diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in all schools," she added.
Why it matters
Teachers across the country, particularly in Republican-led states, have been at the forefront of an attack against books containing what conservative representatives deem unsuitable. Many have gone as far as to call out said content for indoctrination, suggesting a hidden agenda by leftists to indoctrinate children, an idea that was roundly debunked.
In June, the ACLU raised serious concerns surrounding what was then an upcoming vote, saying it “disempowered parents” and catered to a small group of people to “control over what educational materials all Central Bucks students can and can’t access.”
Florida has previously led the charge to remove any and all educational content that the state considered dangerous for children, going as far as to suggest grooming. In May of 2022, the state rejected 41% of math textbooks, saying they violated the state's terms by pushing the highly controversial Critical Race Theory, otherwise known as CRT.
The big picture
The Pennsylvania Republican legislature has set forth a series of actions to severely restrict rights previously guarded by the Supreme Court and launched a strategic legislative campaign to undermine democratic policies in the Commonwealth.
The pressure reverberates across diverse institutions, and it remains to be seen if, at the state level, representatives will safeguard Democratic principles.
AL DÍA reached out to the Pennsylvania Department of Education but has yet to receive a response.