Parents, You Have Rights on Controversial Books
Often parents reel in shock when they discover the schoolteachers, librarians, administrators, and school board members they trusted to determine age-appropriate reading material for their children have failed in their jobs. Once they realized the issue, thousands of these parents began to stand in the gap for the students and challenge the system that brought anti-god books and media that embrace transgenderism, sexuality, and racism into public schools. Thank God for parents, not adverse to hard work, who persevere to make a difference for our students and nation.
If you have any doubts about what is involved, ask Janice Danforth, who lives in Bixby, OK, a quiet suburb of Tulsa. Last year, Janice met opposition when addressing a problem with her son’s 9th-grade left-leaning history curriculum. After addressing her concerns, the administration’s answer was to remove her son from the honors history class.
Not one to back down from a challenge, Janice joined Moms for Liberty and decided to look at the school library to find any inappropriate books within reach of young students. Two books stood out to her: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Thirteen Reasons Why. Both books contain explicit sexual content. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl contained over 200 uses of the “F” word and the “S” word. Janice again followed protocol and spoke to the principal, who passed the issue on and suggested a committee review the books. Janice agreed but was shocked when she wasn’t involved in the selection process and, worse yet, realized the people on the committee either worked for the school or held liberal biases. She wasn’t surprised at their decision for the books to remain on the library shelves.
Janice then appealed to the school board. After waiting 60 days for the board members to read the two young adult books and enduring a grueling one-and-one-half-hour board meeting, the majority vote of the board allowed the books to remain.
Janice’s experience shows the difficulty faced when holding school administrators and librarians accountable to protect students from damaging and inappropriate reading material not suitable for their age group. Bixby is a small school district in a conservative community and state. If it’s a problem here, it’s likely in every school library.
On the offensive, school administrators and school boards cite the First Amendment as their justification for allowing all material available to all students. They refer to a 1982 Supreme Court case, Board of Education v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853. The case dealt with questionable books in the school’s curriculum that parents considered objectional due to graphic content. The Supreme Court split on the issue; four ruled removing books was unconstitutional under the First Amendment, four ruled the contrary. The outcome remained unclear, with both sides of the issue using the case to prove their point.
The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) could help deal with a local school administration and its school board. PPRA requires a local educational agency or local school board that receives federal funds to consult with parents to develop and adopt policies regarding the parents’ right to review their children’s curriculum. The PPRA does not prohibit forming committees to allow parents to provide their input about the curriculum or which materials are age-appropriate for inclusion in the school’s library. As long as the local school board’s decisions are not motivated by the disapproval of the ideas or perspectives discussed in the books or library materials, local school boards have discretion over which materials to offer in a school’s library.
Behind the scenes in the hotly contested debate is the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). They wield tremendous power in selecting books for public school libraries. Both organizations are progressive. AASL encourages school librarians to become “change agents because, as a member, you are a part of a diverse and engaged community of educators transforming teaching and learning.” AASL also encourages schools to make LBGTQ books available for the “most vulnerable,” a term for the student looking for something to read that will reaffirm a decision to become transgender. The AASL website emphasizes Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and information on how to be politically active. An educator may connect with their Office of Intellectual Freedom, where outside activity on book banning is monitored, and assistance is offered should an educator experience issues with parent “book banners.”
With no compunction about sexualizing children or destroying their innocence, the ALA openly expresses their gratitude for authors who continue to write “these stories during this time when so many books are being challenged and banned.” Since 2007, the ALA has published a book list of their top ten titles for LBGTQ young readers and young adults. The 2022 Rainbow Book List published in February includes the ALA’s latest book offerings and a content synopsis.
The ALA and the AASL are powerful and well-financed with taxpayer money. The ALA requested $256 million to fund two of their most popular programs, the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL). IAL funds go toward age-appropriate books and parental engagement programs. This amount does not include state and local grants and appropriations for public school libraries.
Our priority is to pray for those like Janice. They place themselves on the front line of opposition to placing books that encourage sexualization, violence, and hate before the child reaches an appropriate age to discern the good and bad of the book’s content. Below are ideas that have emerged to help parents take a stand:
- Pay attention to local school board elections. They usually occur during the school year and off the grid of significant elections. Low voter turnout is a problem, but somehow the National Education Association (NEA) manages to rally school employees to vote in their favor.
- Get a bill passed in your state legislature like the proposed Florida bill that would require elementary schools to publish on their websites “in a searchable format” all books and materials used in their classrooms. The public would be able to weigh in on the materials.
- Insist on the enforcement of the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA).
- The Tennessee state legislature recently proposed a bill that “prohibits local education agencies for public schools from making obscene materials or materials harmful to minors available to students in the public school libraries.”
- Work to have the Bible put in your local school libraries! Check out bibleinschools.org to find out more.
No matter how daunting this situation may look, great ideas for a resolution have surfaced. So now is our time to pray.
Share your prayers for our schools in the comments.
About the Author: Nancy Huff is an educator with a mission to equip believers to pray strategically for the Cultural Mountain of Education. She has authored Taking the Mountain of Education: A Strategic Prayer Guide to Transform America’s Schools. Safety Zone: Scriptural Prayers to Revolutionize Your School, and Decrees for Your School. She leads prayer groups to pray at key educational locations across the U.S. For additional information, go to: https://takingthemountainofeducation.com. Photo Credit: Redd on Unsplash
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