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Virginia school board member calls for gay books to be burned

Spotsylvania County school board members demanded that LGBTQ books be thrown "in a fire"

book, books, burn, fire
Photo by Fred Kearney on Unsplash

Virginia school board members are calling for the burning of “sexually explicit” books, after a Fredericksburg mother objected to LGBTQ fiction in her child’s high school library app.

“I think we should throw those books in a fire,” said Rabih Abuismail, a member of the Spotsylvania County, Virginia School Board, at a meeting on Monday, the Free Lance-Star reports.

Fellow board member Kirk Twigg added that he wants to “see the books before we burn them, so we can identify within our community that we are eradicating this bad stuff.”

“There are some bad, evil-related material that we have to be careful of and look at,” he said.

The call to ban — and potentially burn — books apparently stems from a mother’s discovery that her teenage child could access books with LGBTQ content through Riverbend High School’s library app.

The mother, Christina Burris, was specifically appalled by Adam Rapp’s young adult novel 33 Snowfish, which includes LGBTQ storylines and depicts teenagers’ struggles with homelessness, drug abuse and sexual abuse.

While 33 Snowfish was named a top 10 book for young adults by the Young Adult Library Services Association in 2004, Abuismail said Rapp’s book is evidence that schools “would rather have our kids reading gay pornography than about Christ.”

Burris’ complaints led the board to vote 6-0 to ask school staff to remove “sexually explicit” books from their libraries.

However, board member Baron Braswell expressed skepticism about the matter, saying that “we have to be clear on what is offensive and should not be in our schools and what should be,” The Hill reports.

He added: “You can’t do an audit of books without developing screening criteria and you have to have facts in order to do that.”

It remains unclear how “sexually explicit” is defined. The district is reportedly reviewing its own process for vetting books.

This move follows Virginia’s election of Glenn Youngkin (R), who ran on a platform of “parents’ rights” in education, saying during his gubernatorial campaign that he would ban critical race theory on his first day in office.

Calls for book burning have historically been tied to oppressive regimes like Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler. As the GOP vies to win back support from suburban voters, Virginia has been at the center of a nationwide push against teaching about sexuality and race in schools. 

“What has taken us aback this year is the intensity with which school libraries are under attack,” Nora Pelizzari, a spokesperson at the National Coalition Against Censorship, told The Washington Post.

“Particularly when taken in concert with the legislative attempts to control school curricula, this feels like a more overarching attempt to purge schools of materials that people disagree with. It feels different than what we’ve seen in recent years.”

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