(This article first appeared in Broad + Liberty.)

The Perkiomen Valley School District board of directors voted unanimously Monday to enact Policy 109 that prohibits “depictions, representations, in whatever form, of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse…. when they meet the criteria of harmful to minors.”

According to Superintendent Dr. Barbara Russell, Gender Queer — one of the most debated library books in the country — was removed from the district’s online catalog for not conforming to the new policy. Gender Queer is an autobiographical graphic novel about a young woman’s gender confusion that contains explicit drawings of sexual acts.

The removal of the book is directly counter to the campaign run by the Democratic candidates running as the slate “PV Forward,” who accused Republicans of being book banners.

Five Democrats and three Republicans contributed to the 8-0 vote.


The meeting was sparsely attended and only included two public comments, which contrasts sharply to several meetings last spring where the audience was packed and many residents waited to make comments.

The Mercury wrote about the debate on March 10, 2023. “A 4-4 vote at Monday’s Perkiomen Valley School Board workshop stopped an attempt by school board President Jason Saylor to circumvent regular board procedure and “shortcut” getting a policy restricting district library books and textbooks up for a vote as soon as next week.”

They published again on March 15, 2023, about the meeting. “At Monday’s meeting, dozens upon dozens of speakers offered comments ranging from accusations that Saylor’s proposed policy is targeting the LGBTQ community, to those who excoriated the school board and administration for bringing ‘porn’ into school libraries.”

The Inquirer wrote about the ensuring student walk out over the proposed policy.

Following the contentious spring meetings, the board continued discussions throughout the remainder of the year on the policy.

In November, the previously Republican majority board flipped to a 6-3 Democratic majority. All five Democratic candidates supported by the PV Forward slate won seats to the board. The proposed book policy was a hot topic of debate between the Democratic and Republican candidates.

The student newspaper, The Voicereported the Democrats’ win and highlighted the book controversy. “The PV School Directors race was a highly contested election as major issues – threats of book banning, implementation of a sex-based bathroom policy and bomb threats jeopardizing school safety – hang in the balance.”

Despite the contentious debate last year, none of the local news outlets have reported on the new policy that passed on Monday. However, a private social media group posted about it, reminding readers of the Democrats’ stance on the book issue.

While the vote was unanimous to approve the policy, including the Republican board members, there was a spirited discussion on how the policy got to the approval point and how and when Gender Queer was removed from the online library collection.

Former President Jason Saylor, a Republican, asked the superintendent and current board President Laura White, a Democrat, why Gender Queer was removed from the library before the new policy was enacted. When the question was not immediately answered, he pressed to understand whether his email asking why the book was in the online library collection was the impetus for the removal.

The superintendent eventually responded that the book was ultimately removed because it did not meet the criteria in the new policy. She further acknowledged that even though the new policy was not yet approved, the librarians now have a “hyper awareness” of the situation and anticipated that the policy would be adopted. She added, “the librarian does not want that book in the collection.”

Saylor said that he was happy with the language in the new policy as he had been advocating for two years for such a policy.

Former board member and President, Kim Mares, was in the audience and publicly commented about the new policy that she had supported as a school director. Mares had been vocal about her views during the initial debates. “I totally agree that we should have a diverse library. I just can’t support at all sexually explicit materials, whether — it doesn’t matter what the interaction is, heterosexual or homosexual. It’s the sexually explicit part that is disturbing.”

During public comment, Mares said that she was “thrilled with the policy, but disgusted” with the board members who ran a campaign insisting that it was necessary to have graphic novels to support all students. She recounted having her name dragged through the mud for her stance on the issue.

After the policy was approved, several board members had additional comments on the topic. Saylor said that while he is glad that the policy was passed, he still has strong feelings about what happened over the nine months leading to the November election. He spoke about the mailers that were put out calling him a book burner and the way that he was treated by some board members and constituents, including people showing up at his house and calling him abhorrent things. Saylor said, “now everyone is quiet because they got elected.”

Democratic President White responded that she and her running mates also felt that they were treated badly during the election. Dr. Tammy Campli, a Democrat, commented that while she voted for the policy, she does not believe in book bans and is disappointed that certain books will not be in the library any longer. She commented that both sides had worked hard and she felt that she had to work towards a compromise and that was the reason that it may appear that she had voted in a way different from what she said six months ago.

After more than a year of contentious debate, student walk-outs, countless hours of public comments and board discussion, and a highly competitive election resulting in a new board majority, Policy 109 is now officially in place at Perkiomen Valley School District. It is not significantly different from the initial policy proposed by the Republican majority board, and while there is some room for subjective decision-making, the policy is more restrictive than many of the other local school districts. It is also a policy that does not support Gender Queer in the library collection.