CHEYENNE – Some parents in Laramie County School District 1 have asked to remove at least 15 books from school libraries due to their mature content.
Among those listed after a major public response at Monday night’s board meeting, nearly all of the popular young adult novels written by New York Times bestselling author Ellen Hopkins were included.
LCSD1 Superintendent Margaret Crespo and Assistant Superintendent of Training Jim Fraley made it clear at the end of the week that they would not ban these books from district libraries, and there is also no process. existing in the district policy to ban books.
“We’re not banning books or censoring,” Fraley told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. “But we are here to educate the students. “
Following this request, a Twitter thread was created by a reporter asking that the books not be repealed in Wyoming, and the author was tagged.
Hopkins replied online, “This decision to remove books from school libraries denies their power to have a positive impact and, yes, save lives. School boards that take up these challenges must understand this.
The young adult author said that in her three decades of publishing books, she had never seen such severe demand on the public education system. She would consider it a form of censorship if district officials were to remove her books from the shelves.
“School libraries are a place where some kids only get books,” she said in a Zoom interview with WTE on Friday.
Most of the stories she tells are inspired by real events and revolve around difficult topics, such as sexual abuse, incest, assault, drug addiction, and suicide. She said she uses her voice as an author to break down these experiences for young adults and let them know they’re not alone.
“A book is a safe space to explore this stuff,” she told WTE, “and it’s a lot safer than the internet.”
But many parents who attended the last council meeting and raised concerns throughout the school year don’t necessarily agree. Some have explained how this can lead children down a path of hypersexuality, induce suicidal ideation or traumatize them due to a misunderstanding of concepts.
They also said they believed it was their right as parents to choose what materials their students had access to, whether in the classroom or in the school library.
While none of the books listed for deletion – and confirmed by a Moms For Liberty member – are taught as part of the program, students whose parents don’t choose not to participate in adult content can view them.
“Some have tried to claim that when a parent expresses that a book on a shelf is made available it suddenly becomes a book burner, but nothing is further from the truth,” said Nathan Winters, executive director of the Family Policy Alliance of Wyoming. “Our society in America recognizes the need for MPAA ratings. What I mean is that society recognizes that certain subjects are inappropriate for children, and we ask our school board to recognize the same.
One of the examples provided on Monday was Hopkins’ novel “Crank,” which elicited a passionate reaction from Shannon Ashby, who removed her children from the district earlier this year.
The book features a 16-year-old girl who suffers with her father from drug addiction. She is also pursuing a pregnancy after being sexually assaulted, and her family has to raise the child. Some of the images she reads as pornographic.
“You’re setting here, and if you can go home and read these books to your grandchildren or babies, I don’t want nothing to do with any of you if you think that’s proper shit. “, she told members of the board of directors.
This book, along with the rest of Hopkins’ novels, is available at various middle and high school libraries in the district.
Ashby said she was aware that parents could call district libraries and ask their child not to be able to view any or all of the books that are currently available. But she said it was not enough. She said children could ask their classmates to pull out the book for them, or sit in the library and read the book without parental consent.
“And I’m not talking about burning books,” she said. “I’m not talking about a book ban. I say [it should be] withdrawn from public schools. It is not an educational book; he doesn’t have to be in schools. Instead, he can go to the municipal library just down the road.
Ashby considers books inappropriate – or non-educational – because they are novels that contain the thoughts and perspectives of the author. She said if any material is included with these topics, it should be real accounts based on non-fiction, and only for senior students 18 and over.
Hopkins disagreed and said that shouldn’t make the books unqualified.
She explained that she not only had a background in journalism and interviewed sources about their experiences and watched her daughter struggle with drug addiction, but that it was simply a novelist’s role to portray inner thoughts. characters and conceive of a reality.
“They need someone to know that someone cares enough about them to write stuff for them and about them,” she said.
She also said that while the novels aren’t traditional in the textbook sense, they can give students insight into ongoing issues, such as suicide or abuse. She was not alone in this perspective, as Fraley said there are many books that help introduce children to the difficulties of the world in the right environment.
“Maybe we have a social worker who sends this book back to them from the library so they can read about the divorcing students,” he said. “Maybe a student has a sibling or other family member who suffers from addiction, and maybe they can use a book to help them understand what addiction is.”
He said, fiction or not, the knowledge contained in a book can help students understand. He also argued that although the material may be mature, there are already children in primary school who are offered drugs, experience violence and struggle with their sexual orientation.
“So to blind ourselves with, well, we don’t have things in our society that aren’t there, so we’re incompetent in the way we educate a child,” he said. “We are turning a blind eye to a problem and not helping these kids understand and prepare for life after this kindergarten to grade 12 experience.”
While some in the community said they understood it might help shed light on these topics, they saw it as the responsibility of parents to teach these topics when they think their children are of age.
Safehouse Cheyenne director Carla Thurin, who handles cases of sexual assault, abuse and domestic violence with large numbers of children in the county, said a parent who cares and takes responsibility educational responsibilities may not be available to all students.
She understands a parent’s right to choose, but she doesn’t see this as a reason to take the opportunity to learn away from every child.
Thurin said many would be shocked how many college students are sitting on the couch, without access to proper education on adult content, or experiencing abuse at home. She said if they don’t get the information at school, they can be manipulated by others or ignore what is happening to them.
“I can think of a handful of people right now who are young adults who could tell you about their experience growing up in a house where from the outside it looked absolutely perfect, and they thought it was. a normal life, ”she said. “They had no idea that wasn’t how it should have been.”
She said if parents want to remove books from the library on these issues, then they must fill the void for children who will be without support otherwise. Superintendent Crespo also spoke about this concept of supporting all students in a public education system such as LCSD1. She said it is their responsibility to pay attention to the needs of each child. And in the case of covering the basics, she wants to work together to make it happen.
“If it was a learning situation, we would like our children to have all the opportunities based on their exceptional character,” she said. “Whether it’s giftedness or special educational needs, we want those needs met. “