Central Bucks school board to let parents challenge what books end up in school

The policy focuses on classroom and library materials; the ACLU has threatened to sue if books are banned

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Central Bucks School District board has voted 6-3 on a new policy that could change what books are on school shelves, a move that opponents call a "book ban."

While some in attendance at Tuesday night’s board meeting supported the final vote, others screamed, “Shame on you!”

The school board argued back and forth over the policy, following comments from the public.

"Based on a lot of the comments tonight, it's clear that many people still have not read the policy,” one person said to a chorus of boos.

“No, it's clear they read the policy,” another person responded.

But the policy ultimately passed. Board members say it centers around younger students and reading material.

The plan as proposed to the school board Tuesday involves giving district parents online access to a database of their classroom and school library’s current books and audiovisual materials, along with other items they plan to acquire.

Parents can challenge whether those materials and items are appropriate, with the parent either taking part in an informal meeting or filing a formal complaint.

The district’s proposal focuses on sexual material but also says the district’s criteria for approving items must, in the proposal’s own words, “support and enrich the curriculum and/or students’ personal interests and learning, be appropriate for the subject area and for the age, intellectual development, and ability level of the students for whom the materials are selected, and for non-fiction resources, incorporate accurate and authentic factual content.”

Superintendent Abram Lucabaugh says that if a book is taken into question, a committee will review it.

"Never will this be the determination of a single person,” Lucabaugh explained.

“It is very important that any decisions that are made are not made in isolation. It is very important that we rely on the expertise [of] librarians, classroom teachers, administrators, folks who are well-versed in curriculum and instruction, professionals who understand age-appropriateness, understand adolescent development."

He promised in Tuesday night's school board meeting that educators from "multiple viewpoints" will be included in the discussion around any book that is challenged.

In the days leading up to the vote, opponents said they felt the policy is a way to censor books inside school walls.

“These policies give a small group of vocal parents control over what educational materials all Central Bucks students can and can’t access,” the ACLU of Pennsylvania said in June. They threatened to sue the district “once books start coming off of the shelves.”

The Central Bucks School District is the state’s third-largest, with more than 3,000 faculty and 17,000 students in 23 schools.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Central Bucks School District