Pennsylvania community is divided over anti-racist book ban at school board meeting;


“I don’t think a moral compass will allow you to ban books on equality and mutual love,” Central York High School senior Christina Ellis told CNN.

Ellis is among the students protesting the book ban in York, Pa., And wonders whether officials who decided to remove certain reading materials from the program have even read the resources they deem controversial. She was joined by other teens demonstrating outside Central York High School this week.

On Monday, students, parents and other community members debated at a virtual school board meeting the list of anti-racist books and resources that have been banned from the program by the Central York School Board on Monday. last year.

Last October, the all-white school board unanimously banned a list of educational resources that included a children’s book on Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography, and CNN’s Sesame Street town hall on racism.

From chaotic school board meetings to political disputes between parties, debates over curriculum diversity have sparked controversy across the country in recent months. And earlier this month, a new Texas law aimed at restricting discussions of race and history in schools caused some educators to question themselves and forgo civic education activities to avoid to run into it.

But in York, discussions about race erupted in the wake of last summer’s protests and students began to have more conversations about racism and creating more inclusive environments.

School officials say it’s not a ban and the material is “frozen” while the board reviews the material. But this process took almost a year. At Monday’s virtual board meeting, district leaders said the materials were still banned.

Some students and their parents said it was frustrating and questioned the logic of a school board that they felt is not diverse and does not address the concerns of a multicultural student body.

Central York High School elder Edha Gupta said the book ban “was a slap in the face.”

“It’s advice that after hearing their students’ concerns about diversity in the neighborhood, hearing my struggle with race, being an American Indian and constantly feeling like you don’t belong. for weeks, they’ve continued to ban books. “

Gupta isn’t the only student angry with the board.

“I was deeply hurt when I heard about this book ban, which is hurting black and brown authors and resources,” Ellis, a black senior, said in high school.

She said books are essential for teaching students about racism.

“Why does an episode of Sesame Street threaten children’s education. On the contrary, this school board threatens education,” she said at the meeting.

School librarians have pulled books from shelves and teachers say their lesson plans have been affected.

“Now, with this resource ban, I have to think twice about whether or not I should use a quote from James Baldwin as an opening for my class,” said Ben Hodge, teacher at Central York High School.

There is also some fear among educators.

“There are teachers looking over their shoulders and wondering if someone is going to be at their door to darken their door, saying that you said something or mentioned something or used something that you weren’t supposed to do, “said Patricia Jackson, who has taught at York’s Central School District for over 20 years.

That all of the banned material is about or about people of color is just a coincidence, according to Jane Johnson, school board chairperson.

“The concerns were based on the content of the resources, not the author or the topic…” she said in a statement.

What parents say

“I don’t think a board that lacks diversity is the appropriate authority to determine what constitutes appropriate material to address race in this community,” said Brandi Miller, parent of a student in the school district.

It's not just Texas.  False panic and textbook wars have a long history

However, other parents were in favor of the ban.

One mother said, “The community is 100% against a critical racial theory indoctrination program,” during Monday’s meeting. “School is not the place where politics or identity have to be shaped.”

But critical race theory is not taught in the K-12 curriculum.

“This is very clearly an attack on diversity, equity (and) inclusion. It sounds a lot like political excess based on disinformation,” Ana Ramón, deputy director of advocacy at the Intercultural Development Research Association.

York parent Matt Weyant praised the school board for implementing the ban.

“I don’t want my daughter to grow up feeling guilty because she is white,” he said.

This sentiment is spreading in the United States. A growing number of states have adopted or are considering policies that strictly define what students are allowed to learn about race.

But it’s the students who are missing, say alumni and current students.

During the board meeting, a man who said he was a former student of the school district said unless the school board can go through every book on the ban and explain what is so “obnoxious.” About each of them, then the books should be allowed back into the school curriculum.

“I want to learn the authentic history,” said Olivia Pituch, a student who was protesting outside Central York High School this week.

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“I don’t want to learn a whitewashed version. I want to hear it all. I don’t want everyone to worry about how we feel because no one cared about what the BIPOC members of the community felt. “

But one expert said the ban is unlike most other debates across the country.

“It seems pretty blatant. I can see how some trainings or workshops that some parents dispute really seem outside of what one would expect from a history class,” said Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, associate professor at story at the New School. “But the kind of texts that are banned here give me the impression that there is now some kind of allergy to anything that mentions race or racism.”

It’s more than a book, movie, or even a curriculum, seasoned teachers argue. In York, they fear it is a war against their profession.

“I’m not an enemy of the state. I’m here to take care of your babies when they come into my classroom and there are some that I watch, but they’re still babies,” Jackson, the teacher. York, mentioned.

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