NC school board considering new book ban policy

One of the books considered is “Looking for Alaska,” which contains a sex scene that the author claims was read out of context to make it an example of inappropriate content.

CABARRUS COUNTY, North Carolina – Cabarrus County education officials are considering changing the district school library’s book policy after parents complained about the process of removing books that some people considered to be inappropriate.

The Cabarrus County School Board met Monday evening to discuss potential changes, with parents speaking directly to the board about the current policy. Censorship complaints poured in after parents learned that several books had been removed from libraries with input from the superintendent and the school board. A policy proposal provided by Jay White, the school board’s attorney, would leave book review to the board, giving it the power to remove books from libraries. The board would be required to publicly announce that any book is under review before a vote.

“What we’ve seen over the past year is that school districts across the country are facing significant demands to remove books that fit into a set of categories,” said Jonathan Freidman, director of the nonprofit’s free speech and education programs. PEN America, said. “Books that have LGBTQ content, books that touch on race and racism, books that contain any type of sex or sexual content whatsoever.”

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Parents on both sides of the argument spoke to the council at Monday’s meeting. Some expressed concerns about censorship, while others said schools should focus on teaching abstinence.

“Politically motivated movements encourage the community to distrust teachers and librarians, as well as distrust their discretion, judgment and expertise,” said one parent.

“If there are parents who want to provide their child with sexually explicit material, they can, but without my help and my taxes,” said another parent. “And they will answer to God.”

RELATED: Union County Group Hosts ‘Reading’ to Fight Proposed Book Policy Changes

One of the books in question is “Looking for Alaska” by John Green. Two board members read a sex scene from the book during a work session, saying “Looking for Alaska” is “dirty” and should be banned.

Green responded to the claims on Twitter, saying he had never seen anything like the “concerted effort” to get his book banned from school libraries across the country. Green wrote that the scene in question was taken out of context, saying it made no sense without the full context of the novel.

“Never mind, the book is not pornography,” Green tweeted. “For example, if you find the book exciting, I…really think you’re reading it wrong.”

Friedman supported Green’s position, saying the dating in the novel was not intended to encourage sex.

John Green’s “Looking for Alaska” as he put it really presents a sort of awkward sexual encounter described in sterile, emotionless terms in an effort to really try to reflect in literature how such encounters aren’t always happy and deeply emotional and how they carry other kinds of complications,” he said. “You can look at this and say it’s material that shouldn’t be available to high school students at all, but the truth is that many young people this age are sexually engaged and eager to read books that reflect the reality of their situation.

“To reduce this book by Green to a few pages and not see its complexity and other benefits is to fail to understand the work as a contextual whole, and if we do, what will be left of the libraries where so many many books contain so many subjects that reflect the complexity of human nature and human experiences?

It’s unclear when Cabarrus County education officials will make a decision on the proposed policy. The next scheduled business meeting is Monday, October 10.

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Colin L. Johnson