A Pennsylvania school board has clashed with its students and parents over its ‘ban’ on ‘anti-racist’ books.
Last year, Central York School District’s all-white board banned 40 books including I am Rosa Parks and Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography, as well documentaries like I Am Not Your Negro and multimedia resources like CNN’s Sesame Street town hall on racism.
‘That resource list has some bad ideas in some books that I definitely not want in our district,’ said Vickie Guth, the treasurer of the board.
Some parents backed the decision, saying they feared the racial focus of the books would harm their kids.
‘I don’t want my daughter growing up feeling guilty because she’s white,’ said a Central York parent.
But students were furious and have protested the ban which they say is disruptive to their education and stopped them learning inclusively.
‘I don’t think that a board that lacks diversity is the appropriate authority to determine what qualifies as appropriate material to address race in this community,’ one parent agreed.
This week, parents, students and board members at the 82 percent white school district, had an online meeting to discuss the issue. But little progress was made and the district has refused to overturn the ban until they have reviewed all the resource list media.
Pennsylvania students are protesting their 82percent-white school district ban on over 40 books and resources that tackle race issues
The district refused to reverse the ban, even after students of Central York High School shared their disagreement in a series of protests
Lat year, Central York School District’s all-white board banned teachers from ‘I am Rosa Parks,’ Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography and countless others books in their classes. The district also banned documentaries like I Am Not Your Negro and multimedia resources like CNN’s Sesame Street town hall on racism
All of the books and articles in the list have been authored by people of color or are about race, but the board said that the decision was based on the ‘content of the resources, not the author or topic.’
The move has left many teachers facing a daily battle, caught in between their students and their employers.
‘I have to, now, with this resource ban, think twice about whether or not I should or could use a James Baldwin quote as an opening for my class,’ teacher Ben Hodge told CNN.
They said they are at a loss of what they can and cannot teach and feel constantly worried they’ll receive backlash from the parents.
‘This is a board that after hearing their students’ concerns about diversity in the district, hearing my struggle with race, being an Indian American and consistently feeling like I didn’t belong. After all those conversations for weeks on end, they still pursued the book ban,’ Senior Edha Gupta told CNN.
When asked if she thought that the school board had read any of the books in the resource list, senior Christina Ellis said she didn’t believe so.
Students at Central York High School argue that the ban jeopardizes their chances of having an inclusive education and is disruptive for both educators and students
‘I want to hear all of it. I don’t want everyone to be worried about how we feel because no one was worried about how BIPOC members of the community felt.’ Olivia Pituch said
‘I don’t think a moral compass will let you ban books about equality and loving each other,’ Ellis said.
‘Why is a Sesame Street episode threatening the education of children. If anything this school board is threatening education,’ she added
Fellow student Olivia Pituch also told CNN that she didn’t want a ‘white-washed’ version of learning, and that she wanted to hear about the struggles of minorities.
‘I want to hear all of it. I don’t want everyone to be worried about how we feel because no one was worried about how BIPOC members of the community felt.’ Pituch said.
The school board has contended that the books are not banned and are simply ‘frozen’ until they decide whether the content is appropriate or not.
But the ban has been going on for a year, and students are pressuring the board to lift it.
The district also banned documentaries like I Am Not Your Negro and multimedia resources like CNN’s Sesame Street town hall on racism
All of the books and articles in the list have been authored by people of color or are about race, but the board said that the decision was based on the ‘content of the resources, not the author or topic’
An identical measure was taken by a Texas school District this August. Leander Independent School District banned nine books that addressed race, gender, LGBQT issues and mental health issues.
‘It is disheartening to see a school district closing off avenues for learning and engagement across lines of difference,’ said Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education at PEN America.
‘Not only is the removal of these books harmful to the literary community as a whole, it also contributes to the further minimization of the issues that people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals face.
‘The district has an obligation to open students’ minds to the difficult issues these books reckon with, not close them off to diverse lived experiences.’
Parents in New York City are also fighting private schools and accusing them of ‘woke indoctrination.’
‘We want [school administrators] to be afraid and to know we’re not kidding,’ a mother told the New York Post.
The parents behind the movement have children who attend prestigious private schools such a Dalton, Spence, Horace Mann, Collegiate, and Riverdale Country School.
In June, a Florida mother blasted critical race theory as racist, dangerous and claimed it will destroy America at a state Board of Education meeting.
Keisha King said: ‘Just coming off of May 31, marking the 100 years [since] the Tulsa riots, it is sad that we are even contemplating something like critical race theory, where children will be separated by their skin color and deemed permanently ‘oppressors’ or ‘oppressed’ in 2021.’
Educators have constantly reminded parents that critical race theory is not part of any school district’s curriculum in the country.
Even though critical race theory is not taught anywhere in the country, it is banned in six states and a ban is in progress in ten others.