Virginia school board orders libraries to remove 'sexually explicit' books

A local school board in Fredericksburg, Virginia, has ordered school libraries in the district to begin removing books containing “sexually explicit” material from the shelves and to report the number of books that are removed at a special meeting next week.

The Spotsylvania County School Board issued the directive after a parent raised concerns at a board meeting on Monday about certain books available through a digital app for Riverbend High School's library, the Free Lance-Star reports.

During public comments at the meeting, a mother of a Riverbend student said she was alarmed by “LGBTQIA” fiction she said was immediately available through accessing the library app. After researching the selection, she came across a book she believed contained objectionable content.

The book, “33 Snowfish,” by Adam Rapp, has mature themes involving sexual abuse, drug addiction, and child prostitution and features strong language.

A review for Publisher's Weekly described it as a “dark tale about three runaways who understand hatred and violence better than love.” The reviewer warned that “Readers may have trouble stomaching the language … as well as the horrors so flatly depicted and, in the end, so handily overcome.”

The reviewer recommends the book for readers ages 15 and up.

After the parent raised her concerns, the school board voted 6-0 to pull “sexually explicit” books from the libraries and asked for a report on the process by which books are selected for inclusion in digital and hard copy collections at different school levels. The board also opened the door to a division-wide library audit.

Two school board members, Courtland representative Rabih Abuismail and Livingston representative Kirk Twigg, said they would like to see the sexually explicit books burned.

“I think we should throw those books in a fire,” Abuismail said.

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

Abuismail was adamant that there be an immediate audit of school libraries. He told the Free Lance-Star the inclusion of sexually explicit reading materials in school libraries shows how public schools “would rather have our kids reading gay pornography than about Christ.”

School division Superintendent Scott Baker said he would take responsibility for any failures in the process for selecting library books.

“I would not have thought to do an audit because I have great faith and trust in our librarians,” he said. “If we find something being missed in a process, then we do refine the process. There was no ill intent here. We don't have all the information.”

Another school board member, Baron Braswell, observed that what some people find offensive others may not and said division staff should have time to examine their policies and procedures.

“We have to be clear on what is offensive and should not be in our schools and what should be,” he said. “You can't do an audit of books without developing screening criteria and you have to have facts in order to do that.”

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