On Wednesday, Spotsylvania County Public Schools (SCPS) in Fredericksburg, Va. announced that it would be removing 14 books that “contain sexually explicit content and themes that are inappropriate for young persons” from the school district’s libraries. With the move, SCPS joins a growing list of school districts around the country that have opted to remove school library books that contain graphic sexual content amid a growing movement of parents decrying the availability of “pornographic” books to minors.
In a press release, SCPS Superintendent Mark Taylor cited a recent state law put in place in 2022 as the impetus for the removal of the books. “These books contain sexually explicit material which makes it clear there should be parental notification,” he said. “State law sets the definition. The only way we can guarantee they’re not available to students without parental permission is to remove them.”
The measure, championed by Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin (R), requires that parents be notified of books available in school libraries that contain sexually explicit material.
According to an SCPS memorandum from Taylor provided to The Washington Stand, the 14 books marked for removal include: “All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto” by George Johnson; “Like a Love Story” by Abdi Nazemian; “Dime” by E. R. Frank; “Sold” by Patricia McCormick; “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Perez; “Beloved” by Toni Morrison; “America” by E. R. Frank; “Looking for Alaska” by John Green; “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky; “Water for Elephants” by Sarah Gruen; “Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe” by Preston Norton; “More Happy Than Not” by Adam Silvera; “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison; and “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult.
The memo goes on to note that the books on the removal list can still be assigned by teachers with parental permission.
In an attachment to the memo, a compilation of extractions of the explicit content from the books is listed. In many of the extractions, sexual encounters between minors as well as between adults are described in graphic detail. The content also includes hundreds of instances of profanity and crude references to sexual organs and other sexual terms, as well as racial and sexual orientation slurs, which are all notably prohibited from being uttered in most schools.
A growing movement of parents protesting sexually explicit books in school libraries has taken place across the country over the last few years, with parents voicing their concerns at school board meetings in New York, Texas, Virginia, Alabama, and Florida, among others. At recent board meetings in Georgia, Texas, and Alaska, parents who read content from sexually explicit books were told to stop reading due to the graphic content, with a speaker in Florida being physically kicked out of a meeting for reading the content.
Critics, as well as many legacy news outlets, claim that the removal of explicit books from school libraries amounts to a “book ban.” However, the SCPS press release notes that the 14 books on the removal list remain available at local public libraries if students wish to access them. The press release went on to state that copies of the books being removed “will be stored securely until arrangements can be made to donate them.” Superintendent Taylor’s memo recommends “that they be donated to the Central Rappahannock Regional Library or another public library system.”
Meg Kilgannon, senior fellow for Education Studies at Family Research Council, commended SCPS’s decisive action.
“It is great to see a school system take this issue seriously,” she told The Washington Stand. “Too often, school leaders delegate this task, or allow political pressure from activists to overwhelm the reasonable concerns of parents. To his great credit, Superintendent Taylor has removed books with sexually explicit content from school libraries. He will no doubt face hysterical accusations of the worst sort from LGBTQ activists, library associations, and publishing industry lobbyists.”
“Fortunately, most parents can understand that school libraries and public libraries serve different age ranges and that no child has an alleged ‘right to read’ explicit or pornographic content. Thanks to Spotsylvania County Public Schools, their school board members, and Superintendent Taylor for preserving childhood innocence and academic excellence,” Kilgannon concluded.
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.
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