Northern Virginia

‘Censored': Some Parents in Spotsylvania Co. Oppose Decision to Pull Explicit Books

The school superintendent talks to News4 about the book review process underway and the concerns it creates

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Some parents in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, are now pushing back against a school board decision to review and then pull sexually explicit books from library shelves.

The Spotsylvania County School Board had directed staff to remove books with “sexually explicit” material from libraries after parents raised concerns about books available through a school's digital library app at Monday’s meeting.

While librarians scour the collection, other parents are pushing back against the school board directive. A petition on has gotten hundreds of signatures in just hours.

Some of the signers shared comments such as:

"Please do not allow our education to be censored and banned."

"This is just a way to erase LGBTQ+ people and SA (sexual assault) victims’ voices and stories. They deserve to be heard."

Superintendent Stephen Baker says that with 64,000 hard copy and electronic books, the review just ordered is an enormous task that will take librarians away from other important work.

"The concern to me is the amount of time it's going to take," Baker said. "Not that we don’t want to address concerns, but this manner in which we are needing to do it is certainly fairly unprecedented and very challenging for our school staff, particularly our librarians."

The review comes after Christina and Robert Burris, the parents of a high schooler, raised concerns at Monday's school board meeting about two books they’d discovered that described pedophilia.

Christina Burris said she was alarmed that LGBTQIA fiction was immediately available through the library app. She was more upset when she came across Adam Rapp's “33 Snowfish," which is about homeless teens trying to escape from pasts that include sexual abuse, prostitution and drug addiction.

Robert Burris said, "It's a combination of prostitution pedophilia thing. Kids and grownups, very inappropriate relationships."

Some board members reacted with anger and then voted to order a library review to get sexually explicit books off the shelves.

"We're in a world where our public schools would rather have kids read about gay pornography than Christ," school board member Rabih Abuismail said Wednesday night.

The book review will be a massive undertaking for folks in the midst of the many massive undertakings they have in their daily work.

The superintendent says search terms are being used to identify books that might be in question, among them: "sexually explicit," "graphic sex," "rape" and "pedophilia."

So far, only a few books have been pulled, although the review work is far from done.

"We are not looking to do a massive pull or ban of books," Baker said. "We are in good faith taking what the board exercised as a concern and directed, and we are just reviewing those materials."

With tens of thousands of books to review, the work will not be done by the next school board meeting on Monday night. The superintendent plans to provide an update. He also hopes to review for the board all the procedures in place to respond when a parent raises concerns about books or curriculum.

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