Metro Weekly

Virginia school board removes ban on LGBTQ books after member suggested burning them

Spotsylvania County School Board members had suggested burning LGBTQ books after a parent objected to their presence in a school library

virginia, books, burn, lgbtq
Photo: Jason Leung / Unsplash

A school board in Virginia has, at least temporarily, reversed a decision to ban LGBTQ books from school libraries after widespread condemnation.

On Tuesday, Nov. 16, Spotsylvania County School Board voted 5-2 to rescind the decision, which came after parents’ objection to LGBTQ fiction in Riverbend High School’s library app. The two naysayers were Rabih Abuismail and Kirk Twigg, who on Nov. 8 suggested that the offending books be burned.

The vote came a day after a board meeting attended by dozens of students, parents and teachers — some displaying signs reading, “Give back the books!” and “Books not bonfires.”

At the meeting, Abuismail and Twigg were accused of violating school district policies and the board’s code of ethics, with many urging the Abuismail to resign, the Free Lane-Star reports. A petition demanding his removal has garnered more than 1,000 signatures.

Speaking during a public comment period, one high schooler told the board that censorship is “contagious and leads to much worse,” with a county librarian adding, “If you have a worldview that can be undone by a novel, let me suggest that the problem is not the novel.”

Around midnight, board member Baron Braswell proposed the ban “be rescinded immediately…and that was basically it,” he told The Washington Post

However, because the board will gain new members in January, the decision is only temporary, Braswell noted.

He added that removal of the ban came after the school’s district attorney informed the board of its potential unconstitutionality, arguing that it would violate the right to free speech and prevent children from reading about certain political ideas.

As the GOP vies to win back support from suburban voters, Virginia has been at the center of a nationwide push — often from conservative parents — against teaching about sexuality and race in schools.

RelatedTexas governor rails against controversial LGBTQ books, will push to ban “pornography” from school libraries

Due to a lack of clarity about how “sexually explicit” is defined, three dozen staffers, including all of the district’s librarians, had been forced to pore through tens of thousands of titles.

Braswell said he wants the books that have been challenged to go through the school district’s process for dealing with parent complaints. He said he had known about this system when he initially voted to remove the sexually explicit texts.

“None of us, for certain, ever believed in censorship or burning books. That’s just not who we are,” he told the Post. “Everybody was caught off guard last week.”

Abuismail told the Post that “he does not actually want to burn books” and that he “misspoke in a heated moment of frustration and anger.”

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