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HUNTER: Similarities But Crucial Differences for Voters to Mull

Most political races focus on the differences in candidates’ viewpoints, failing to acknowledge the things upon which they can agree. My opponent, Heather Reynolds, and I have some similarities amidst our differences.

Like Heather Reynolds, I, too, grew up in a Jewish family. Unlike my opponent, I never felt different or marginalized. I am proud of my family’s Jewish heritage and don’t feel victimized at all.

Like Heather Reynolds, I, too, support an environment of inclusivity and belonging. Students deserve to learn in schools that foster resilience and develop confidence. Unlike my opponent, I support and encourage the acceptance of all viewpoints, which is why I hold firm in my stance that students should be taught how to think, not what specifically to think.

Like Heather Reynolds, I, too, believe we should be tolerant. Unlike my opponent, I believe that tolerance should extend to those whose views are in opposition to our own. Seeking to understand someone’s opposing viewpoint is an opportunity for appreciation, not vilification. Demonizing those who think differently serves only to divide. I respect Heather Reynold’s right to believe that teachers should use their positions to influence students’ political beliefs; still, I believe it is inappropriate for teachers to impress their political stances on the children over whom they have such influence. I support classroom environments free from the promotion of any political and sociopolitical content – classrooms that do not exclude anyone because of their beliefs and values.

Like Heather Reynolds, I, too, believe that our students’ mental health and wellness are of utmost importance. It’s why our current school board has aggressively supported hiring eight additional mental health counselors and the formation of a student services division that encompasses a wide range of services and supports aimed at nurturing the well-being of all students.

Unlike my opponent, I do not believe that facilitating a child’s gender transition without including parents is an appropriate component of mental health. Keeping parents uninformed about pronoun changes, name changes and gender transition isn’t a form of mental health support – it’s operating under a veil of secrecy that goes against the very transparency my opponent so frequently claims is lacking in Central Bucks.

Like Heather Reynolds, I believe our LGBTQAI+ students deserve to be heard and supported. It’s why we have books on our library shelves that focus on the LGBTQIA+ experience for adolescents. However, unlike Heather Reynolds, who believes books with graphic sexualized content should be accessible for students under the guise of being supportive, I believe our students can be respected and supported without exposing them to graphic books that promote adolescent sexual debauchery, complete with visual depictions of sex acts and other lewd descriptions of sexual contact and practices.

Like Heather Reynolds, I believe that students and staff should feel safe. It’s why our current Board fought to provide School Resource Officers at our three high schools and security guards in each of our middle schools. Unlike my opponent, who is a self-proclaimed Ambassador to the Defund the Police Movement, as she describes in one of her many recently deleted social media posts, I am willing to fight for anything that will provide our students, staff and parents with the feeling of safety and security they deserve.

I do believe that Heather Reynolds wants our district to be successful, as do I. Unlike Heather Reynolds, who claims that student achievement is plummeting, I maintain that the opposite is true. ranked Central Bucks the top district in the county, and our three high schools (East, South and West) in the top 1 percent in the entire state. These rankings include academic achievement, among other factors. U.S. News and World Report concurred, ranking Central Bucks among the best districts in the nation.

Recently, Central Bucks East was named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the United States Department of Education, a recognition that only one-third of one percent of schools ever achieve. We’ve enacted a dynamic strategic plan and are actively pursuing large systemic changes to provide full-day kindergarten, move our middle schools to grades 6-8, and our high schools to grades 9-12, all under the clear and capable leadership of our administrative team and superintendent.

Are these the accolades and actions of a failing district in need of overhaul?

We should be thrilled by what is happening in our district, committed to ensuring the very best for our students, and partnered with our community, and that includes respecting the rights of our parents to be involved and informed. Mrs. Reynolds would have you believe we are imploding.

She speaks of fiscal irresponsibility as she maligns our district for defending itself in a lawsuit and compensating our superintendent at a proportional rate. What she fails to mention is that she has interacted with a plaintiff’s lawyer to gauge the likelihood of our district settling on a case that has no merit, has not even gone to trial, and would cause a tax increase of over 50 percent to all district residents while eliminating essential services like transportation, and activities like athletics, band and more.

Heather Reynolds and I are both running for School Board in November. One of us will win. Let’s make sure that our students and families do as well.



FLOWERS: Literature, Art and Truth, Oh My

My happy place, my “safe space,” so to speak, has always been a bookstore.

As a young girl, I spent an inordinate amount of time strolling through the aisles of stores like the Book End at the Manoa Shopping Center, Waldenbooks at the Springfield Mall, and B.Dalton at the corner of 15th and Market in Philadelphia. Unlike libraries, which demanded silence and only promised to “lend” you these precious literary gems, bookstores allowed you to actually take home, forever, beloved titles like “Anne of Green Gables,” “Once and Future King,” “To Kill A Mockingbird,” “Little Town on the Prairie,” “Gone With The Wind,” “Madame Bovary,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “The Red Badge of Courage,” and “Dr. Zhivago.”

The other reason I wasn’t a big fan of libraries was that I always managed to fall so deeply in love with a book that I procrastinated and rarely ever brought it back on time. I could have fed a small village in Botswana for a decade with the overdue fees I paid from 1974 to 1982.

So it hurts me to write anything that is even vaguely negative about a bookstore, especially if it is one of the few that is still operating in the city, one that is located a 15-minute walk from my front door. It pains me to have to criticize a place that, even though it no longer has a café and thinks patrons don’t need to use the bathroom, however still has a wonderful selection of magazines, records, and entirely unnecessary candles.

I am talking about the Barnes and Noble between 17th and 18th on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia.

But something so annoying happened the other day that I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, so I made a Facebook post that, as of this writing, has been shared over 50 times. I took a picture of a display near the front door with several bookshelves under a poster that said, “Discover What Banned Books You’ve Been Missing.” Some of the titles were confusing, like “James and the Giant Peach” and “Where’s Waldo,” whereas others, like “Gender Queer” and “This Book Is Gay,” left no doubt as to why they were controversial. When I looked closer, I saw that the workers at the store had put index cards explaining why each book had been “challenged,” which is entirely different from being banned. In fact, as a friend rightly noted, if I’m looking at the book and it’s for sale, it’s not “banned.”

I wrote this to accompany the picture:

“Let’s look at why Barnes and Noble is upset.

Gender Queer: “banned” because of sexual content.

All Boys Aren’t Blue: “banned” because of sexual content.

The Bluest Eye: “banned” because of sexual content.

The Handmaid’s Tale: “banned” because of sexuality, suicide, anti-Christian themes

“Lawn Boy”: “banned” because of sexual content

“Harry Potter”: “banned” because of poor social values

“James And The Giant Peach”: “banned” because of witchcraft, sexual references

“This Book is Gay”: “banned” because of… oh, just guess.

Again, none of the books were banned. Their appropriateness for certain age groups was challenged. And virtually every one was challenged over sex. Gotta wonder why school administrators would be surprised that parents who want their children to learn about math and not masturbation, about social studies and not social perversions, about history and not his/her/their pronouns, about trans-Atlantic treaties and not trans insanity, would question their literary choices.”

My point is that lying about book banning is dangerous when that is not happening.

It was wrong for Amanda Gorman to lie about her book of poetry, “The Hill We Climb,” being banned when it was simply not included in a middle school curriculum. It is wrong for people to suggest that keeping pornographic materials from the eyes of 6-8th gradersviolatesf the First Amendment.

And for those parents who say that they actually want their kids to read these “challenged” books, they can buy them and read them together with their kids before bedtime. Nothing is stopping those children from having access to these literary gems. It’s just common sense not to want certain messages and certain messengers in a school setting.

As someone who deals with people who actually have been prevented from reading books, people from China and Albania, and countries in the Middle East where possession of the Bible will get you imprisoned, that Barnes and Noble display angered me.

It should anger anyone who cares about literature, art, and the truth.


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GIORDANO: Philly Needs More ‘Moms For Liberty’

It is rare for the local media, the mayor of Philadelphia, or everyday citizens to pay much attention to almost all conventions that come to Philadelphia. However, the convention last week of the Moms for Liberty group drew a ton of analysis and attention.

It also drew protesters who were determined to drive the group out of town. What is it about this growing group of women that prompted Mayor Jim Kenney to call them “problematic “and necessitated substantial numbers of Philadelphia police to surround their hotel to protect them?

The group was formed because of the frustration and anger many parents felt as their children were blocked from school due to COVID protocols that shut down schools for excessive periods. It also focused n concerns about the masking of children after schools reopened and the belief that the teachers’ unions were the powers behind these unscientific mandates.

Moms for  Liberty has taken off and now has many chapters and thousands of members. Vicki Flannery, the head of the Montgomery County chapter, told me they have 1,400 members, and I’ve been told the Bucks County chapter has even more. What is it that has these area suburban moms joining and pushing back against all comers?

The answer is simple. It’s their kids!

However, many area public officials, pundits, and progressive mobs have another answer. They say they’re haters! They claim the Moms are racist, homophobic, and enemies of free expression. They seem to think that parents that object to books in school and school libraries that are so graphic that they can’t be read at school board meetings are for book bans. In Philadelphia, they announced the Moms were defiling the values of Philadelphia by meeting at the Philadelphia Marriott and the Museum of The American Revolution. The museum was vandalized, and the Moms were greeted at the Marriott by a mob spewing profanities.

I think the mothers’ group has tapped into an issue that might play a big role in our area in the 2024 presidential race. Can swing voters in suburban Philadelphia be won over by a Republican candidate who emphasizes the rights of parents in all matters affecting their kids? For example, several suburban Philadelphia school districts will not inform parents if their child wants to be known as a different gender in school. The argument they seem to make is that this is a civil right of the child, and also, school officials feel that many parents may not react well to the news.

This stance is not a winner with many, many parents. In fact, many parents believe it is indefensible. However, it is part of the orthodoxy of growing numbers of progressives and substantial numbers of Democratic Party elected officials.

The moms’ group was also labeled racist because they objected to various forms of Critical Race Theory being taught to their kids. Philadelphia area historian groups huffed and puffed and attacked the Moms claiming they wanted to hide America’s true history. It seems to me that those groups don’t want to acknowledge the growth and evolution of America. They are stuck on grievances.

The crux of all this is that Moms for  Liberty represents traditional America, and various Philadelphia politicians and far-left groups not only reject that vision but regularly love to mock it. These New Age Philadelphia values have given us a progressive mayor who quit last July 4th, a police commissioner who can’t recruit cops or mitigate crime, and a district attorney who believes he is still a defense attorney.

Moms for  Liberty chose Philadelphia because they love our founding principles and wanted to be around them near our Independence Day. I  think many Philadelphians could learn something from them.

Battle Over Central Bucks Schools Will Be Settled at Ballot Box

The battle between progressive activists and advocates for parents’ rights at Central Bucks School District will be settled at the ballot box this fall.

Both sides are fielding full slates of candidates for November’s election. The Republican primary slate is Dr. Stephen Mass, Board President Dana Hunter, Glenn Schloeffel, Aarati Martino, and Tony Arjona. The Democratic candidates are school board member Karen Smith, Heather Reynolds, Dana Foley, Rick Haring, and Susan Gibson.

A backlash to what critics call far-left policies imposed on the Central Bucks School District resulted in a Republican-controlled school board in 2021. Progressive activists immediately went on the warpath, making allegations of bullying and bigotry to discredit the Republican board.

The ACLU targeted the district, which filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and activist groups. It was also the brunt of bad publicity as critics brought out protestors to fight alleged “book bans” and support transgender rights.

However, an exhaustive report by the prominent law firm Duane Morris found many of the allegations, including not acting against bullying of LGBTQ+ students, made by the critics turned out to be false.

Delaware Valley Journal’s previous reporting showed the controversial Policy 321, which was widely protested as a way to keep gay pride flags out of classrooms, actually kept all displays of political content, including Trump flags, out of classrooms unless they were part of the curriculum being taught. Teachers must also refrain from advocating their own political points of view to their students.

Image from “Gender Queer”

The school board also drew heat for a new policy that allows people to ask for school library books to be reviewed if they have gratuitous sex and violence or pornographic illustrations.

Mass, a Republican candidate, said, “If some of our opponents were somewhat more rational, we’d never have had the acrimony.”

He noted that his opponent, Smith, had reported the district to the DOE. The district subsequently paid $1 million in legal fees to defend itself.

Smith, who is running for her third term against Mass in Region 1, denied she filed a formal complaint against the district. Rather, she said, she emailed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona “and asked for his help.” At that point, she said the ACLU and other groups were threatening to sue the district. She claimed the Duane Morris lawyers never interviewed her. “I was doing my duty as an elected official,” said Smith.

If she is re-elected, along with others on the Democratic slate, “I would like to return the focus to academics and making positive changes for students. The last year or so, there’s been quite a lot of negative attention (to the district).”

“The board majority, their agenda, has not taken us in a positive direction,” said Smith. “I would like to return to fundamentals and away from the national culture war.”

As for allowing parents to review books, many of those books “have images that can’t be printed in the newspaper,” Mass said. He supports the steps the Republican majority board has taken to protect students.

Reportedly, two books, “Gender Queer” and “This Book is Gay,” have been reviewed and will be replaced with other books. “Gender Queer” has caused controversy in other Delaware Valley districts, where parents are dismayed at seeing graphic depictions of sexual acts.

“The majority of people, Democrat or Republican, would be shocked” to see what’s in these books, Mass said. And “This Book Is Gay” describes itself as a “how-to” book for having sex, including illustrations depicting explicit nudity and sexual activities.

Smith said part of the complaint by the ACLU was regarding the board’s library book policy, which she had no part in.

“Obviously, I’m happy to make a change there,’ said Smith.

“The elephant in the room is kids aren’t reading,” said Mass. “They’re not reading anything challenging.” That is an issue the district needs to focus on.

As for the primary, “It’s the warm-up for the general election,” he said. The slate of Republican candidates will “concentrate on getting our message out.”

Martino said, “I am honored and excited to be the Republican candidate for Central Bucks School Board. When campaigning, I enjoy talking to many of my fellow citizens and making new friends in our community. It is also clear that I have to set the record straight with many of my fellow neighbors.”

Rick Haring, her opponent in Region 6, did not respond to the DVJournal’s request for an interview.

His website states that if elected, he will  “fight  “to prevent book bans on material with literary merit” and sup” ort LGBTQ+ students.

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New Website For Parents to See Ratings, Excerpts From Explicit School Library Books

Parents around the country are concerned about explicitly sexual books in their children’s schools.

A website developed by a Utah mother lists a number of those books with excerpts and also rates the content of books from 0 to 5, with 5 being the most explicit. A teacher living in the West Chester Area School District, who is also concerned about the books children are being exposed to in their school libraries, identified books and began an offshoot website for WCASD books.

“For the past several months, I have been part of a team that has been doing a deep dive into the obscene books in the West Chester school district’s libraries,” said the teacher, who asked that their name not be used out of fear of potential retribution. “This has culminated with the creation of a website that contains all of the obscene titles, along with excerpts from the books. This will serve as a one-stop resource for parents, residents, political leaders, and anyone else with an interest in protecting our children.”

The books that many parents find objectionable are not just books related to LGBTQ topics, but also graphic discussions of heterosexual sex.

Image from “Gender Queer”

“There’s a lot of straight content that’s just as explicit,” the teacher said. “Or violent. Or includes drugs. It’s all explicit. It’s got obscenity in it.”

“The sole purpose (of these books) is to corrupt,” the teacher said. “They are downright sexual and have cartoons. They’re pushing an agenda.”

“We tried to have ‘Gender Queer’ removed” and were not successful, the teacher said.  However, the West Chester Area School Board “decided to keep that book.”

A spokeswoman for the district did not respond to a request for comment.

Website creator Brooke Stephens, a mother of four living near Salt Lake City, said she discovered the problematic books when she was given a copy of  “All Boys Aren’t Blue.” It is a memoir by George M. Johnson about his experiences growing up LGBTQ and his first experiences with sex.

Stephens decided to take action. She has spent hours reading the books and creating her website.

Ironically, she and her family moved to Utah from California because they wanted to live in a more conservative area, but she found the public schools have the same books on their shelves.

“There’s a problem with very sexualized content,” she said. When she asked the Davis School Board to remove the book, it refused. Thatwas when she decided to create the website.

Stephens blames the American Library Association for the graphic books turning up in school libraries nationwide. It cites the First Amendment to promote these books with school district librarians, but fails to take into account whether they are age-appropriate, Stephens said.

The Library Association did not respond to a request for comment.

Stephens sometimes shows people the content so they believe her and they tell her, “’I wish you’d never shown me this. It is so graphic.’ You can’t unsee it,” she said.

There is “truly obscenity, truly vulgarity that is harmful to minors,” she said.

Stephens is working to review school library books with other parents in Utah Parents United and No Left Turn In Education, which was begun by Lower Merion parent Elana Fishbein.

Stephens said while she wants educational content to be inclusive, she does not think it needs to be so graphic. For example, the books in category 5 include discussions of bestiality and necrophilia.

“Who doesn’t want to be inclusive?” Stephens asked.

She urges parents to be aware of what their children are reading.

“There are probably thousands of parents out there that have no idea that these books are in the school libraries,” the local teacher said. “And unless they come to the school board meetings, or have social media contact with people who do know, they’re not going to find out. So this was an easy way to provide a one-stop resource.”

Parents should take a look at the website and see the books their children could be reading that are in the school libraries, the teacher said.

“If you don’t like what you see, you need to start speaking up or you need to make sure your kids don’t read them,” the teacher added.


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Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Lou Barletta Speaks Out on Inappropriate Books in Schools

Republican Lou Barletta, a former mayor and congressman running for governor held a press event Monday to emphasize his opposition to inappropriate books in area public schools. It is a hot-button issue and one of several educational concerns that drove many parents to the polls in the 2021 school board elections.

Education continues to be a significant issue for voters going into the primary election in two weeks. Barletta took a strong stance against critical race theory and sexually explicit books in public schools.

Additionally, Barletta said he is the only candidate for governor who has signed the 1776 pledge, indicating that he will require that schools teach American history accurately.

“One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic was how parents finally got to see up close what their kids are learning in school,” said Barletta, who spoke at the Sheraton Great Valley Hotel in Frazer. “When I’m governor, we will restore the rights to parents and guarantee that there will be no sexually explicit content in our schools without parental consent.”

Parents have been speaking out against these age-inappropriate books in public schools throughout the Delaware Valley region, including Radnor, Downingtown, Great Valley, Central Bucks, and West Chester Area school districts. And it’s been an issue for parents across the country and arguably the main issue that propelled Republican governor Glenn Youngkin into office in Virginia.

Some Chester County parents contacted Barletta to alert him to certain books available to children down to elementary school age.

Lou Barletta with parents at his press conference.

One of those parents, Fenicia Redman, who has children in the Great Valley School District, spoke out on the issue.

“I met Lou during a (candidates’) forum, and he was the only candidate when I confronted this serious issue about making a stand,” Redman said. “I have been confronting this issue to Great Valley along with other parents for the past eight months, and it shows how urgent it is to have federal and state officials address this in our children’s schools.”

One of the highly contested books in the West Chester Area School District’s taxpayer-funded school libraries is a book titled “Gender Queer.” The book is “a graphic biography of a young female who wants to be male but has to figure out how to incorporate her female body into that fantasy.”

Image from “Gender Queer”

When a parent brought the book to the district’s attention, a 17-person committee was formed to review it. On March 28, the school board voted 8 to 1 to keep this book, even as tensions over the issue continued to rise.

“We can’t allow this issue to continue to divide us, and we must make sure that our kids are protected from this explicit content,” Barletta said. “There is no explanation needed to think this is tolerable, and I will do everything within my power to ban this content.”

Barletta, who has four daughters and 10 grandchildren, emphasized the importance of having a good education and how it will have lasting effects on families throughout the commonwealth.

“Education is the key to lifting people out of poverty and empowering kids to follow their dreams,” Barletta said. “When we address this correctly, Pennsylvania will be a place where families will want to send their kids to school here whether it’s charter, public, or private.”

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Parent, Residents Complain About Sexual Content in WCASD Books

A West Whiteland parent says he was surprised and disturbed when his 11-year-old daughter brought a book home from school that tells the story, in graphic detail, of a young boy who wants to be a girl. Worse, the father said, the book was assigned to his daughter by her teacher.

The book is “George” by Alex Gino features references to pornography and masturbation, according to The New York Times.

The West Whiteland parent, who asked that his name not be used, told the West Chester Area School Board about the book and his concerns at a Jan. 24 meeting.

“My daughter asked me, ‘Is this book OK,’” the dad said. “I opened it and began flipping through the pages and began noticing things.” The main character, a fourth-grade boy named George, wanted to be a girl. He takes pills to block male hormones, begins to wear girls’ underwear and clothes, and uses the girls’ bathroom.

“Why would an adult, a teacher, give her a book like this?” he asked. “I told her to take it back and ask for another book. The second book, about a young Black boy in Harlem who was bullied by White boys and called the N-word, the father told the Delaware Valley Journal. “What is the teacher’s agenda?”

He contacted the superintendent and principal before speaking at the school board meeting. Because of other incidents, he is concerned about the direction the district is headed in. He said two different teachers asked his older daughter about being vaccinated in front of her classmates, a violation of medical privacy. Also, a homeroom teacher refused to have the class recite the Pledge of Allegiance and a student on his daughter’s bus told other students that America should be communist.

“This is what kids are talking about today,” he said.

“I’m asking for a policy that limits a teacher’s ability to promote or discuss any hot topics in the classroom,” he told the school board. And if a teacher does not comply, there should be consequences, he said.

Another West Whiteland resident, Mike Winterode, also spoke to the board. He had compiled a list of more than 70 books that discuss various transgender and LGBTQ topics, sometimes in clinical detail, which are in the middle and high school libraries. Winterode mentioned “George” as well.

“Scientists specializing in brain development have confirmed that the portions of the brain that evaluate risk and make informed decisions are among the last to mature, usually not until the early twenties,” said Winterorde. “With that in mind, I can think of few decisions that require a fully developed, mature brain than deciding to change one’s gender. Which is why I find it troubling that there are books currently in our middle school libraries that promote changing gender before puberty.”

Another book Winterode mentioned was “Pet,’ a crime-fighting novel by Akwaeke Emez. In it, “The main character decided at age three that he was a girl. At age 10, he was implanted with puberty blockers, and at 13 given hormones that made his hips widen and breasts grow. Surely, all necessary details for a crime-fighting novel. This book is currently available in all three middle school libraries,” he said.

“Most parents are unaware that these books exist in our middle school libraries. They deserve an explanation as to why their children are being exposed to this kind of material at such a vulnerable age,” said Winterode.

Other area parents, including some in Radnor, have raised similar complaints about the contents of the school libraries.

The board did not respond to the men’s comments or discuss the topic at the meeting.

However, district communications manager Molly Schwember said the district takes their concerns seriously and works with parents and guardians.

“As affirmed in the Library Bill of Rights of the American Library Association and outlined in district policy 109.1AG1, we also take seriously our responsibility to help our students grow into informed and responsible citizens through free access to a comprehensive collection of materials that are representative and considerate of varied interests, abilities, and maturity,” she said in an emailed response.

Under the district’s policies, “parents and guardians are able to review existing instructional materials and submit a complaint form requesting the reconsideration of the use of a book in our schools. The process for responding to and making final decisions on any complaints received is outlined in District policy 906AG1. The district has responded to all existing complaints of this nature thus far, and has taken the necessary actions deemed appropriate following the review and recommendation process,” she said.

“In all areas, the district is committed to being responsive to new information and questions, and these policies guide us in our process for addressing any formal complaints received as well as the initial selection of books to be included within our schools,” she said.

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