Parents say a sign at a Northern Virginia high school library mocks their concerns about what their children are reading.
A sign reading “Stuff some adults don’t want you to read” was displayed in the library at Langley High School with several books some parents have deemed as inappropriate for children placed behind it.
"I thought that this was such a childish sign for the high school to put out there, kind of thumbing their nose at parents," parent Carrie Lukas said.
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Lukas said there was only one book in the display she views as problematic. It’s the sign that bothers her and other parents.
“It’s not about the books; it’s about them trying to kind of entice kids to something as if it’s forbidden fruit,” she said. “It’s using the language of pushers. It’s just incredibly inappropriate."
In a letter to parents, principal Kimberly Greer apologized, writing, "The sign was incongruent with the beliefs of our school and our school division. Poor judgement was used in its display, and for this I take full responsibility."
“That’s a great step in the right direction, but it’s a step,” Lukas said. “It’s a small step when we still have all these other concerns, and it’s nice when they say they want to foster an environment and hear from us, but that feels a little bit like empty words."
Like the debates over COVID-19 restrictions and school curriculum, the debate over books has become political.
Jeremy Mayer, an associate professor in the Schar School of Public Policy and Government at George Mason University, said it’s a sign of our polarized times.
“Whoever put that sign up wanted to trigger conservatives," he said.
Politics have entered the workplace and church, so it’s no wonder that it’s found its way into schools, especially in Virginia, Mayer said.
"The governor of Virginia won his race in part because of a brilliant ad that claimed a child was damaged by a book,” he said.
Removing political ideology from the debate is almost impossible at this point, Mayer said. The left and right are dug in.
"It's outrage matching outrage," Mayer said.
That outrage has landed squarely on the desk of school librarians.
“The more political it gets, the harder it is to get back to talking about the actual issue of having materials in our libraries accessible to our children that provide multiple perspectives on life," said Jennisen Lucas, president of the American Association of School Librarians.
Carrie Lukas says parents are ready to have those tough conversations about what is and isn’t age-appropriate but trolling makes it harder for everyone to trust each other and listen.
“You want to trust that the people who are doing it are doing it with an eye toward wholly encouraging a healthy understanding and not pushing an agenda,” she said.
Last fall, Fairfax County Public Schools removed two books from school libraries after a parent objected to sexual content, but they were ultimately put back into circulation.