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

HEMPFIELD TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Parents and community members passionately spoke out at the Hempfield Area School board meeting Monday night. Several people voiced concern about a revised book policy that’s been a hot-button discussion at the district for more than a year.

“Make no mistake, the agenda of the conservative members of the Hempfield school board indeed want to ban books,” one speaker said.

Monday’s meeting was the last chance for parents to speak out before a final vote on the proposed new policy in a couple of weeks.

“I think this is a slippery slope,” said parent Davon Magwood. “I don’t think that these people on the school board should get to tell me what books I should allow my child to be able to read.”

The proposed policy would set guidelines to keep books with sexually explicit content off Hempfield’s school library shelves. Materials would not be allowed if they have visual depictions of sexual acts.

The policy also specifies a review process for any books challenged by parents in order to get them taken off the shelves.

“Children should be able to access books, especially in 2023 when I’m happy if my kid puts a tablet down for a second to look at a book,” Magwood said.

The school board argues they are making sure children have access to books, adding this is not about censoring free speech but about protecting people’s rights.

“If we have to remove a book for sexual content, which we don’t want to do, but if it does not meet the standards for our students, then we will replace it with the same topic or author,” said district solicitor Krisha DiMascio.

Some parents disagree, saying it’s about parental control.

“I would like for the school board to leave the regulations as they are,” said parent Cecelia Kessler. “They’ve been working for decades.”

Parent Ryan Sittler would like to see other tweaks made.

“I’m hoping they can make some adjustments to the suggested policy they have right now to make it, for lack of a better term, better, more equitable,” Sittler said.

School board members have been revising the book policy over the last year. They claim it has been thoughtfully done and is not about getting rid of a particular topic or author. They’re expected to vote on the proposed regulations on Aug. 14.

Download the FREE WPXI News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Channel 11 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch WPXI NOW