When the Spotsylvania County, Virginia School Board called for the removal of books with “sexually explicit” content from school libraries, two board members even suggested the banned books be burned.
One of them was just elected president – and the first thing he did was to fire the superintendent.
Member Kirk Twigg spent his first few minutes behind the gavel getting schooled on how to actually run a meeting after he attempted to fire Dr. Scott Baker, who had already announced he would resign at the end of the tumultuous school year.
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But before she handed over the seat, former board president Dawn Shelley, issued a scorching rebuke of Twigg and all that he stands for.
“He has spoken about confidential [human resources] matters in open session. He is constantly using his AOL account to send and read emails throughout school board meetings. He wants to burn books,” Shelley said.
And as Twigg tried to barge through the formalities, board members kept schooling him on parliamentary procedures that govern public meetings – including the right to discuss the decision.
“You have not stated any justification or ability to fill the position. You cannot even properly chair a meeting, but yet you’re going to terminate a superintendent for no reason,” board member Nicole Cole said. “How is this good for the students, the children of Spotsylvania County? How does this make sense? Spotsylvania citizens please recognize that you have not been given any valid reason.”
In November, a parent in the district became very upset to discover that LGBTQ content was available in her son’s school’s library after looking through the library system’s app. So she went to a school board meeting to tell board members about one particular book – 33 Snowfish – that she found there. That book is about a group of homeless teens and contains LGBTQ storylines and discusses sexual abuse, drug addiction, and sex work.
“I think we should throw those books in a fire,” said board member Rabih Abuismail during the original meeting
“There are some bad, evil-related material that we have to be careful of and look at,” added Twigg, who suggested they “see the books before we burn them, so we can identify within our community that we are eradicating this bad stuff.”
The board voted to remove “sexually explicit” content from the district’s libraries. And after that meeting got some news coverage, parents and others in the community with more mainstream views showed up at this week’s meeting to give the school board a piece of their mind.
“[Your behavior] is the most egregious example of unprofessionalism I have ever witnessed,” one parent said, according to Adele Uphaus-Conner, a reporter for the Free Lance-Star. “The only course of action I see fit for you is a formal public apology to all the librarians in this county & for you to submit your resignation from the school board.”
“You have labeled books you have no knowledge of and placed shame upon them,” said a district librarian. “You have no right to judge anyone or what they read.”
“If you have a worldview that can be undone by a novel, let me suggest that the problem is not the novel,” a school librarian concluded.
Calls to ban books with LGBTQ content, as well as content about race and gender, are taking place across the country.
In October, Texas State Rep. Matt Krause (R) demanded schools identify any books they have that cover topics related to sexuality, HIV/AIDS, and STIs, as well as any book that might make students feel “discomfort” or “psychological distress” by “consciously or unconsciously” implying that their race is “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive,” using language from white parents this past year who protested school districts to stop teaching about racism.
In Tennessee, state Rep. Bruce Giffey introduced a bill that would ban public schools from using books that mention LGBTQ people.
Youngkin supports banning certain content from being taught in schools. His victory was considered a win for those who support moves like that made by the Spotsylvania County school board.
The board voted in favor of the superintendent’s termination.