As Protests Continue, School Leaders Seek Ways to Address Concerns over Diverse Classroom Library Initiative

By Amira Zaidi

During the School Board’s Nov. 12 meeting, dozens of speakers again lined up to state their objections to elements of a new program that puts a collection of books that feature diverse characters into Loudoun classrooms.

Critics have questioned whether some of the selections—primarily those featuring sexual relationships and LGBTQ characters—are being presented to students at too young of age, or whether teachers should offer that content to their children at all.

As the protests enter the third month, school leaders searching for options to address the concerns.

On Tuesday, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Ashley Ellis announced that 10 books that had been distributed to high school classrooms have been selectedfor review by a committee of educators.

That step was ordered by Superintendent Eric Williams, she said.

During a meeting of the School Board’s Curriculum and Instruction Committee meeting the following day, Chris Croll (Catoctin) presented suggestions she assembled on the basis of public comment, parents’ emails and in-person discussions with constituents concerned about the policy. Some suggestions included placing warning stickers on books with sexual content or provide parents an opportunity for their children to opt out of certain books in classroom.

But there are approximately 160,000 books already released into Loudoun’s elementary and high schools; the middle school books have notyet purchased.

Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) said tracing each book to put on stickers wasn’t feasible and would not address the concerns of critics.

“You’d have to hire a whole team and how fast can they do that? And then, even if they did that, to what end? Who is going to police whether what kid takes what book?” he said. “Logistically, I understand that [a ratings system] works for movies but there are 600 titles at elementary schools and 1,600 at high schools.”

While some parents are pressing for the books to be removed until they can be more thoroughly vetted, administrators are continuing to review individual books after parents file formal complaints. So far, four books have been moved from the fifth grade to the middle school level after a review of their content.

Additionally, Williams has selected 10 books to be reviewed by panels of three to five members, including at least one central office administrator. Other members would be selected from among librarians, reading teachers, high school English teachers, and special education teachers, counselors, or social workers. The books on that review list are “Gabi, Girl in Pieces”by Isabel Qunitero (Currently in 9, 11, 12); “Season of You andMe”by Robin Constantine (Currently in 9, 11, 12); “Rani Patel in Full Effect”by Sonia Patel (Currently in 9, 11, 12); “Other Broken Things”by Christa Desir (Currently in 9); “Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit”by Jaye Robin Brown (Currently in 12); “Dime”by E. R. Frank (Currently in 11, 12); “Beyond Magenta”by Susan Kuklin (Currently in 9, 11, 12); “Cub”by P. Coccia (Currently in 9, 11, 12); “Gravity”by L. Lieberman (Currently in 9); and “Girls Like Me”by Lola St. Vil (Currently in 11).

Administrators are providing updates about the diversity libraries online atlcps.org/Page/223498.

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