After protests from students, parents, and teachers and increasing national attention, Pennsylvania’s Central York School District has reversed its November 2020 ban on a list of resources written by authors of color.
On Monday evening, the school board voted unanimously to reinstate the resource list. According to the York Dispatch, board member Jodi Grothe told the public before the vote, “We speak and listen to parents and community members to better understand and address concerns. We have heard you.”
In November, the all-white school board had also voted unanimously: to ban teachers from using any of the resources on the list in the classroom. The banned resources were all written by authors of color or featured main characters of color. There was no other substantive connection linking the resources. Resources ranged from I Am Not Your Negro, an Oscar-nominated PBS documentary about James Baldwin; to a statement on racism from the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators; to a children’s coloring book featuring African Adrinkra symbols; to a children’s book about a kindergarten genius who solves problems using the scientific method; to an African-themed cookbook.
Now, Central York School District may have more of those previously banned books in schools than ever. Prior to the ban, two York residents, Hannah Shipley and J.J. Sheffer, called for donations of banned books to place in Little Free Libraries around York. After I am Rosa Parks and I am Martin Luther King author Brad Meltzer, whose books were on York’s banned list, boosted the call on his social media, donations started pouring in. According to the Miami Herald, they’ve received 1200 books so far, while 2200 more are forthcoming according to their Amazon wishlist. When the York school board reversed the ban, Shipley and Sheffer decided to offer the donated books to York teachers.
“I’m just so relieved and so thrilled,” said Meltzer, who attended Monday’s board meeting, to the Miami Herald. “The York community—and their students—left me so inspired, telling stories about why talking about race is so vital. Now the real work begins: distributing all the books to kids — and voting this board out so they can’t do this again.”