Hempfield Area School Board votes to move forward with ‘book challenge’ policy

HEMPFIELD TOWNSHIP, Pa. — The Hempfield Area School Board members voted Monday night and decided certain books can stay and others can ultimately be removed from the district’s libraries.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE >>> Parents, community voice concern over revised book policy at local school district

The meeting got fiery at times with parents passionately speaking on both sides of the debate.

“You say in your mission that you want to promote excellence in academia, you’re not,” said Elizabeth Weaver, a community member.

“What we’re doing is stifling their voices, stifling their choices,” said Sakura Okuri, a parent in the district.

With the start of school just ten days away, students will be walking into classrooms with a new policy about the books they can check out.

In a 7-to-1 vote, school board members decided to move forward with a revised book challenge policy that would allow community members to express concern with a list of books 30 days before the district’s librarians buy them.

The policy sets guidelines to keep books with sexually explicit content off Hempfield’s school library shelves.

One parent read an excerpt from a book she says is inappropriate.

“Watch me, she groaned. Watch. And she took my hands and put them on her head. I gripped her hair and looked down,’” said parent Suzanne Ward.

The school board insisted this is not about censorship or banning books.

“I think it’s ridiculous that we’re going through the same process to ban books. Kids need a right to read and open their minds. Don’t want your kid to read the book, don’t have them read it,” said Donna Eicher, a former educator.

The school board claims they’ve spent the last 18 months carefully and thoughtfully revising the policy, adding they didn’t have to vote on this but did for transparency and to get public input.

“There’s specific language in there that if we remove a book due to the fact that it has explicit sexual content that that book should be replaced by the same author or topic, if at all possible, to prevent disenfranchising particular authors,” said Krisha DiMascio, solicitor of the district.

Board members say they will continue to review the policy going forward and can adjust and go back to the drawing board if it’s not working.

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