Spotsylvania County

14 Books Being Removed From Spotsylvania School Libraries

Spotsylvania superintendent cites sexual content as defined by Virginia law

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A Virginia superintendent informed parents 14 books will be removed from school libraries this week due to sexual content.

Spotsylvania County Public Schools Superintendent Mark Taylor cited Virginia law signed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin last year that requires parents be notified about sexually explicit material.

The 14 books, including Pulitzer Prize-winning “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, are among several dozen books challenged as instructional material by parent Jennifer Petersen who has appeared before the school board to express her concerns.

“It seems that there is a blatant disregard and even support for sexually explicit books to be in the hands of minor children by SCPS public servants,” Petersen said. 

Taylor’s action is in direct conflict with the decision of book review committees that read and discussed the books and decided all should stay on the shelves.

“It seems to be an abuse of the system,” said parent Jeff Kent, who helped review two of the books.

“We’ve had 70 plus parents and educators that make a decision, and the decision of one person can overrule all of them,” he added.

Critics of the decision accuse Taylor of pushing a political agenda embraced by the conservative majority on the school board. 

Kent said students – often those struggling with issues of sexuality and race – will suffer. 

“They need to see themselves in a book or any other way that they can see so they know they are not alone in the world, and that’s the lifeline a lot of kids get, and they aren’t going to have access there,” he said. 

Teachers are not prohibited from assigning the books as long as parents are notified, Taylor said.

A school administrator will decide whether the books will be determined to be excess materials. If so, they will be donated to a public library.

In a memo, Taylor said: "I will also directly address those who might be tempted to misinterpret or falsely characterize this decision as a 'ban' on certain books. This decision is drive by our school division Policy 11A and the Virginia law.”

“I do feel it’s a ban of library books, because these books are being taken out of our high school libraries so that the students will not have access to them,” school board member Nicole Cole said. “So, they’re, in effect, being banned.” 

The Spotsylvania County school district was in the national spotlight in November of 2021 when some parents complained about books with sexually explicit content and some school board members suggested certain books be banned and burned.

Board member Kirk Twigg wanted the books in question to be displayed first, saying, “I’m sure my other collegues here and hundreds of people  out here would like to see those books before we burn ‘em”.  

The school board later rescinded the plan to review all school library books for sexual content.  

The following books are to be removed from school libraries and delivered to the superintendent’s office by 4 p.m. Friday:

  • “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 Silvers
  • “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison
  • “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult

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