October 6 – A conference hosted by lawmakers in Harrisburg yesterday focused on sexually explicit material in school libraries.
Two bills were outlined that would give parents more control over what their children are reading.
The bills want to provide an “opt-in” policy for parents that would notify them of questionable material and allow them the option whether or not to allow their children access.
Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “This is a big issue all over the country. Different states and different districts are addressing it in very different ways. So to the extent it would be legislated, my understanding is that there would be some kind of a statewide panel that would come up with a list of titles that would be specifically precluded from libraries or media programs and public schools in Pennsylvania. I guess they would update or revisit that list from time to time. We’ve seen here locally, just in the Waynesboro district a couple of weeks ago, someone got up at the meeting and identified a title that had sexually explicit content in the book and brought it to the board’s attention. I thought appropriately, the board responded and it looks like it’s on a path to get it removed. I think locally, that’s largely the position that the schools have taken, that if these books were identified, there’s a process in which it’s reviewed and then it would be taken off the shelf, but this state proposal would make it more of a uniform process all over Pennsylvania.”
Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM noted, “I think it’s a tactic that some parents are taking and I would highly encourage it. If you’re not getting what seems like a thoughtful response and real attention to whether something is educationally appropriate or has any educational value, read it out loud at the school board. If you can’t read it out loud in front of those adults, if they cut you off because of the explicit language or explicit things it’s describing, well, then it doesn’t belong in our school libraries.”
Barkdoll said, “That’s what they did in Waynesboro. She read the passages out loud. The board obviously knew that she was on the agenda. They seemed to be prepared for this because I thought it was interesting, they had already researched the fact that that book had been on the shelves for many years. It was published over 10 years ago. They even had circulation statistics that showed virtually no one had checked out the book to read it in all those years. But nonetheless, the board seemed very favorable to that parent’s comments, saying they agreed that this sort of language and content should not be available in that school building’s library. So sometimes just showing up at the meeting and standing up and reading it is what’s going to get the action, the attention.”