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BARNHART: For Central Bucks, Age Appropriate Standards Are Not a Book Ban

Sadly, the Central Bucks School District’s library policy continues to be mischaracterized by many as a “book ban” that discriminates against LGBTQ+ authors and people of color. Likewise, a handful of media outlets continue to publish articles that propagate the same harmful and misinformed narrative, further dividing the community and villainizing the school board majority.

The reason behind these false allegations is puzzling, as the policy is entirely neutral regarding sexual orientation and gender identity issues and treats explicit content equally regardless of whether the sexually explicit depictions happen to be between straight, gay, or transgender persons.

The board and superintendent have tried to set the record straight several times, but it doesn’t seem to correct the deceptive rhetoric. Board President Dana Hunter and Supt. Abe Lucabaugh clearly stated that the intention of the library policy is to “prioritize materials that support and enrich curriculum and students’ personal interests and learning” and to provide standards for age-appropriate materials.

The policy also states, “district libraries must comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) as specified in 47 U.S.C. §254(h)(5), including technology protection measures, and all state and federal laws relating to the prohibition on pornographic and other harmful materials for minors.”

Seems reasonable for our libraries to abide by the law, right?

It is interesting that a book containing graphic sexual content is seen as appropriate for a school library. Yet, if you post images from that very same book on Facebook, your account gets locked for “violation of Facebook’s community guidelines.” That happened to a Central Bucks parent.

To provide some history, before the last school board election, parents discovered numerous sexually explicit books in Central Bucks schools. But they found they had no recourse. The library policy had been archived. It was clear that Central Bucks needed a new one. The new policy resurrected a book challenge process, providing parents with the option to challenge books they deemed inappropriate for students.

Shannon Harris, a concerned Central Bucks parent, recently explained that “more than 60 challenge requests were submitted to the district to date. The administrative regulations allow for 60 days to review the books being challenged.” Harris also stated all 60-plus books being challenged were due to sexually explicit content. Harris explained the book challenges would be reviewed by committees of Central Bucks staff members, who will read the challenged books and present their findings within 60 days.

This process is anything but a book ban. It is the best of both worlds. It provides a balance between upholding parental rights and trusting in the professionalism of an educated staff to weigh in on the decision-making. It seems measured and cautious. It gives parents a voice and provides enough time for school staff to form an opinion.

Parents across the district remain grateful that the school board majority honored their campaign promise to defend and uphold parental rights. They listened to concerned parents about the lack of standards regarding sexually graphic content in elementary and secondary libraries, and thankfully, the school board majority is doing something about it.”

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Great Valley Mom Sues District, State Officials Over Graphic Sex in School Books

A mother with a teenager in the Great Valley School District filed a federal lawsuit against the district over obscene materials in school libraries where her son is a student.

Fenicia Redman filed the suit without a lawyer on behalf of her minor son, a student at Great Valley High School, asking the court to issue an injunction to remove the books and other materials.

But said she believes the case will eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court because the books are in schools nationwide.

Image from “Gender Queer”

“I’m a determined Puerto Rican American advocating for the protection of my minor son and all minor children from obscene graphic sexual material distributed in the public school system. In the last 10 months,” she said in the introduction to her litigation. “I’ve publicly appealed to educators, administrators, directors, law enforcement, district attorneys, legislators, and the governor, asking each to remove obscene sexual material from my minor son’s school library.”

She mentioned the book “Gender Queer” with graphic pictures of sexual acts, “Tantric Sex,” which is a manual describing sexual acts, “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” which also shows details of sexual acts, and “PUSH” that includes a female child who is raped by her father. In “Fun House” there are scenes of women having sex with women.

The complaint filed by Redman includes excerpts of various books available in the Great Valley High School library that students are also able to download on their home computers, which she claimed is a violation of federal law.

The lawsuit detailed Redman’s months-long saga of talking to the Great Valley School Board, the local police, the Chester County District Attorney’s office and the state legislature, where some legislators were sympathetic to her cause. She said she was rebuffed by Gov. Tom Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Both the police and Chester County District Attorney’s office told Redman they did not believe the pornographic material in the books was a criminal matter, the suit said.

“Finding no support from the school district, police, or attorney general, friends and I took our appeal to the (state) capitol, stood in the rotunda silently with posters I made of content from “PUSH,” “Tantric Sex,” “Gender Queer” and “All Boys Aren’t Blue.”” There she was told by a capitol police officer to remove the most graphic posters because ‘There are children walking these halls. Get rid of it now!’”

The lawsuit might receive an X rating for all the graphic photos of sexual acts included. However, they are the graphic photos that are in students’ library books for minor children to view, she noted.

On May 15, 2022, Redman alleges her First Amendment rights were violated by the Great Valley School District at a school board meeting. As Redman pressed her case with the board, Superintendent Daniel Geoffredo had her removed by security officers and then called the police.

In an interview with the DVJournal, Redman said she has no recourse except to sue, since everyone from the school board and school officials to Wolf ignored her complaints about the graphic books.

“This is a national issue,” said Redman. “On June 29, the governor had these posters in his office. The police removed them from the capitol hallway. He did not care. The governor looked at posters of a child giving (oral sex) to another child and he didn’t care. Minimally, he could have called his attorney general to investigate. All of them do not see this as a problem.”

“The transfer of obscene materials to minors is a crime,” said Redman. “This has no place in our schools. What is the educational value of two minors having sex with each other? This is criminally extreme. The kids have no say in the matter. They’re sitting ducks.”

“The Office of the Attorney General has no standing in a school board matter of this nature and this lawsuit includes no allegations directly levied at the attorney general, that being said we are aware of the lawsuit and our office plans to represent the attorney general,” a spokeswoman for Shapiro said.

“How does (Attorney General Josh) Shapiro (who is running for governor) have the nerve to run ads saying he’s protecting children and does nothing?” she said. “This isn’t even a moral issue. It’s a criminal issue.”

Redman added, “This is not ‘The Twilight Zone,’ and the governor of our commonwealth and the attorney general, the senior law enforcement officer of our state, says it’s not a criminal act,” Redman said.

The other defendants’ institutions, including the Great Valley School District spokeswoman, did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

Redman has a Go Fund Me page to fund her legal representation.

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