Those who have been paying attention to local education news and the critical race theory debate know that many school districts are battling over what materials can be kept in libraries and taught in classrooms. The battle is making its way to the courts: just this week a PEN America report found, between January and September, 54 separate bills across 24 state legislatures that would restrict teaching and training in K-12 schools, higher education, and state agencies. Special targets of these bills—and of many more parents and school boards, before formal legislation—are materials addressing the history of slavery and racism, as well as materials about LGBTQ+ issues, particularly books featuring transgender people. The effort to ban certain histories from classrooms is censorship; some have referred to it as modern-day book burning. Those trying to get the books banned have railed against this framing—but now, in Virginia, that figure of speech has become surprisingly literal, as school board members call for actual burning of “evil-related” books.
As the Fredricksburg Free Lance-Star reports, the Spotsylvania County School Board voted unanimously to make school staff remove books that contain “sexually explicit” material from library shelves; they also requested a report on the process of selecting books for inclusion in library collections and a district-wide library audit. This action was prompted by a parent saying she was alarmed by “LGBTQIA” fiction available on her child’s school’s library app. (Familiar!) Incredibly, two board members—Courtland representative Rabih Abuismail and Livingston representative Kirk Twigg—said they would like to burn the removed books. Said Abuismail: “I think we should throw those books in a fire.” Twigg said he wanted to “see the books before we burn them so we can identify within our community that we are eradicating this bad stuff.” Guys!
Abuismail took special issue with one book in question, Adam Rapp’s 33 Snowfish, which centers around three homeless teenagers moving on from sexual abuse, prostitution and addiction; he said that the book’s inclusion in a school library proves that public schools “would rather have our kids reading gay pornography than about Christ.” Rabih . . . among other concerns . . . libraries have multiple books!
This glaring example just underlines the fact these campaigns to ban books are not about balanced viewpoints, they’re about censoring views and information. For his part, Twigg said he has aims to broaden the criteria for identifying removable books: “There are some bad, evil-related material that we have to be careful of and look at.” A reader can make some educated guesses as to what Twigg thinks is evil.