Community Perspective: School Board Breaks Promise to Protect Parental Rights

A contributed perspectives piece by Hilary Moore

As many know, the Rockingham County School Board recently pulled 57 titles from our school shelves, some in response to parental complaints, others without complaint. By unilaterally pulling books, rather than referring concerned parents to the many tools already available in our schools that help parents control their child’s education, the Board took away our right to parent our children as we see fit. They took away our right to decide what books our children should, or should not, have access to. 

On February 13th the Board and local librarians met to begin developing a county-wide policy for acquiring books and handling parental concerns. I attended and was shocked at the Board’s disregard of parental rights and blatant use of theatrics to distract from the issues.

When the Board pulled titles from our shelves instead of empowering parents to use the available resources and policies, the Board either (1) didn’t know the policies existed (which is their job), or (2) knew they existed, but deliberately took power away from parents to impose the Board’s own views upon our children. Either way, the Board failed us.

When asked why the Board pulled the titles, Board Member Cave dramatically likened the situation to a school shooting, where police neutralize the threat first. But that’s a half-truth. Books are not bullets. They do not kill people. And even in a school shooter situation, we don’t just neutralize the threat; our communities double-down on 2nd Amendment rights to ensure the “good guys” have guns too. According to Cave’s own logic, shouldn’t we be arming our children with even more ideas, more critical thought, more books, rather than taking them away?

Some might argue that the mere presence of controversial books in schools is evidence that the existing policies are insufficient. But when asked how many complaints they have received, most librarians had never received any. A couple had received a small handful of complaints in their many years of work. Librarians admitted that mistakes happen; that’s why challenge procedures exist – so parents have a voice in determining what books are on library shelves. And before selecting books, librarians read professional reviews and excerpts, discuss titles with their colleagues, investigate recommendations from students and families, and read as many of the books as they can. 

It is not the librarians, but the School Board itself that deliberately interfered with parental rights. If the Board had done what it promised – to support parental right – it would have directed parents to use the available resources. Parents would have learned that they can flag their child’s account, only allowing the check-out of books that align with their family’s values. Librarians can direct parents toward book reviews to see what their children are reading. And parents can ask to see what books their students have already checked out. Finally, if a parent is not satisfied with simply controlling what their child can access, they can even file a complaint to have a book removed from the school shelves completely. There is a process. 

Cave also read an excerpt from one of the pulled books that contained foul language and a description of sexual behavior, clearly only appropriate for select upper grade students. But this was nothing more than theatrics. For example, if I select particular verses, the Bible looks like an instruction manual for murder, encouraging Christians to kill adulterers (Lev 20:10), homosexuals (Lev 20:13), nonbelievers (2 Chron 15:12-13), and disobedient children (Ex 21:17). But common sense says this is dishonest. 

Supporting parental rights means supporting parents’ right to extend, or to limit, the information that their children have access to. The government – the Board – stripped away our parental right to control our kids’ education by by-passing the policies and tools that already exist, and replacing them with their own personal views. This is classic government overreach.

Hilary Moore lives in Rockingham County. She is an attorney, professor at Eastern Mennonite University, and a parent of children in the Rockingham County School System.

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