December 6, 2023

Banned Books Week is over, however the difficulty itself will not be solely removed from settled in Virginia – it’s a key matter in a few of this fall’s faculty board elections. And a few candidates for these native faculty boards are involved that folks and college students’ rights are being missed by teams pushing e book bans that censor what they learn.

Nearly 400 books have been topic to ban efforts this yr in Virginia, in keeping with the American Library Affiliation – about double the quantity e book bans tried final yr, which itself was twice as many as had been challenged in 2021.

A few of these efforts have been higher-profile than others. Earlier this yr in Virginia, the varsity board in Madison County banned 21 books, utilizing a listing of novels that Concentrate on the Household, a nationwide conservative group, deemed unacceptable. Simply final month, a public library in Warren County narrowly prevented a compelled shutdown amid a battle over which books have been deemed acceptable and who had the ability to make these selections.

In opposition to the backdrop of this e book banning bonanza are this fall’s faculty board elections. 5 counties throughout northern Virginia and the Richmond suburbs will elect faculty board members on Nov. 7, and Dogwood spoke with a few of the candidates about their views on e book bans and the way they could possibly be empowered to push again towards them amid this rising effort.

Melanie Meren is working for reelection to the Fairfax County College Board. As a member of the board of Virginia’s largest faculty system, she’s enjoying shut consideration to e book ban debates throughout the state.

“I’ve combed [Fairfax County Public School] coverage and regulation to make sure it’s clear in course of for difficult supplies and air tight in its safety of the varsity division’s dedication to recognizing all of our college students’ experiences in our supplies,” Meren stated.
“I’ve pledged my allegiance to our professional faculty librarians who curate collections that assist creating kids attain their potential by feeling secure and seen. I’ve knowledgeable mother and father about their rights to evaluation curriculum, books, and supplies, and I pay attention to folks and caregivers who discover sure content material inappropriate.”

Meren is deeply troubled by rising efforts to ban books extra broadly.

“We had determined as a society a long time in the past to not entertain the notion of e book banning. It’s astonishing that in 2023, some people search to impose their opinions on total faculty divisions about what all college students ought to or mustn’t have entry to,” she informed Dogwood. “Their considering is arcane and in opposition to making ready college students for a fancy world stuffed with numerous individuals. We don’t put together kids for his or her grownup future if we ban books.

Padreus Pratter is a candidate for Prince William County faculty board, and because the son of a retired public faculty instructor with two younger kids himself, these e book ban efforts hit very near house.

Pratter sees conversations round banning books as not solely troubling, but in addition a distraction from faculties’ work to help elementary studying and academic success.

It’s time we take the politics out of studying,” he informed Dogwood. “Studying is a foundational talent, essential to future studying and to exercising our democratic freedoms. Books expose college students to numerous views and experiences, enabling them to develop essential considering expertise and unbiased thought.”

Pratter can also be involved about taking energy away from mother and father to steer their kids’s selections about what to learn and giving it to “single-issue curiosity teams” to make studying selections for youths who aren’t their very own.

“We are able to belief people to make their very own selections about what they learn and consider. Mother and father have at all times had the precise to information their kids’s studying and training.”

Pratter additional understands that politics are a driving drive behind the broad effort to ban books and vows to oppose such efforts in Prince William County faculties and as a substitute direct the board’s work towards serving to college students themselves.

“It’s unacceptable to take away books from faculties or public libraries based mostly on partisan or political causes, and it’s a slippery slope to authorities censorship and the erosion of the First Modification,” he stated. “I’ll reject any efforts to ban books and permit people and fogeys to make the choice about what they will learn and consider and as a substitute will focus the dialog on what the varsity board and district is doing to make sure all college students are studying at grade stage.” 

Henrico County instructor and faculty board candidate Madison Irving echoed a lot of Pratter’s sentiments.

The talk over banning books “essentially comes right down to the truth that you shouldn’t management what different youngsters have entry to,” Irving informed Dogwood.

“I need myself as a father or mother to have the ability to have conversations with [my daughter] about these items,” he continued. “Having the ability to have these conversations is essential.”

Irving additionally stated that e book bans are very a lot a difficulty in his race.

“It’s the largest difficulty I hear about once I’m canvassing and campaigning,” he stated. “Most individuals simply need youngsters to have the ability to learn and have educational freedom.”

Additional, Irving says, youngsters’ studying expertise must be the main focus of book-oriented discussions, not eradicating studying supplies from faculties and libraries.

“College students already don’t learn sufficient – no matter we will do to really encourage youngsters to learn is useful.”

Irving additionally famous that e book ban efforts are a distraction from what faculty board members ought to truly search to attain.

“I need to make the varsity board very boring – faculty buses working on time, youngsters being fed correctly, resolving staffing shortages, and serving to college students obtain their full potential.”

  • Carolyn Fiddler

    Carolyn Fiddler

    Carolyn Fiddler is Dogwood’s chief political correspondent. She can also be the nation’s foremost professional in state politics with virtually 20 years of expertise in statehouse machinations, and her comedian e book assortment might be greater than yours.