inside sources print logo
Get up to date Delaware Valley news in your inbox

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.

 

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or Facebook.com/DelawareValleyJournal

 

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.”

Follow us on social media: Twitter: @DV_Journal or Facebook.com/DelawareValleyJourna

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.

Follow us on social media: Twitter: @DV_Journal or Facebook.com/DelawareValleyJournal