One parent and an agenda

2 Guys and a Chick Set Off Loudoun Library Dispute, reads the Washington Post headline.

At least now we have this admission, via LCPS officials:

A children’s book about two male penguins that hatch and parent a chick was pulled from library shelves in Loudoun County elementary schools this month after a parent complained that it promoted a gay agenda.

I guess thinking that a child should be able to go to her public school library and discover a book with a family that looks like hers, or like some other family she knows – even if they are just penguins – is part of the “gay agenda” now. Ditto that all children should have access to the very basic information that different kinds of families exist in the world. Thanks, unnamed parent, for telling us. This would be consistent with our other radical ideas, such as that hiring decisions should be based on job qualifications.

These good people must all be secretly promoting the “gay agenda,” too:

Following school system policy, the principal convened an advisory committee of principals, librarians, teachers and parents to review the book. The group deemed it acceptable, and the principal concurred. The parent appealed. Another committee of administrators, librarians and parents reviewed the book. That committee, too, recommended that it remain in the collection.

Superintendent Hatrick, of course, overruled the judgment of both committees and is trying to spin the decision as a compromise, or as he is putting it, a “split decision.” Let’s be perfectly clear about this. It is not a compromise. The book is not on the shelf. Parents have no way of knowing it is available. No other books from the “professional collection” are made available to parents. Teachers, knowing that their Superintendent has pulled it from the shelf, will be afraid to use it in the classroom. It might as well not be there at all. Why else would the parent have declined to appeal this decision?

Hatrick thought the book’s content might not be developmentally appropriate for some students, [school spokesman Wayde] Byard said. “He thought the book, for some of the younger students, would be better read with an adult or a teacher.”

Again, the “content” is not an abstract idea. There are children with two moms or two dads attending our public schools. Would interaction with their classmates also not be developmentally appropriate for them?

The book is recommended for children age 4 and up. Here’s just one of many parents we’ve been hearing from:

“We happen to be a mom and dad and a boy and a girl,” she said. “But sometimes you have a grandmother and a mother, sometimes you have just a dad, sometimes you have two moms or two dads. The important thing is that it’s a family of love.”

Interestingly, although we are hearing every day from parents at these schools, who are forwarding to us the emails they are sending to Dr. Hatrick and their school board representatives, at least one school board member has told a constituent that they haven’t heard from any other parents. If anyone tries to tell you this, know that it is not true.

However, it’s very important that they do hear from you. Otherwise, parents like the complainant, who are willing to keep badgering our schools for months, demanding appeal after appeal until they get their way, will be empowered to make decisions for everyone. If you have been angered by this and have not emailed or called Dr. Hatrick and the School Board, please do it. They need to know that this community won’t stand for censorship.

And please, don’t be hostile. I know that this is infuriating, but these officials are entitled to respect and civility. Not only that, but your message will not be heard if it’s presented as a personal attack. John Stevens posted a guide to successful advocacy at LCPS that has some helpful information about being heard effectively.

Email that goes to schools@loudoun.k12.va.us will get to Dr. Hatrick, but you should send your note individually to school board members. They may not get it otherwise. Contact information for members is here.

The ending of the article is funny:

Last school year, a Loudoun parent challenged a school library book titled “Math Curse” because of a concern that it could be associated with witchcraft, said David Jones, supervisor of library media services.

A local committee recommended keeping “Math Curse” in the library. The decision was not appealed.

Could the difference be that the “Math Curse” parent wasn’t recruited and encouraged by a national advocacy organization? Time will tell.

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10 Responses to One parent and an agenda

  1. David says:

    I saw your comment, Dave, and responded to it already, to wit:

    No, the book is not available. It is not on the shelf along with the other books; this is known as censorship. People in Loudoun County have a long history of opposing these attempts by a pushy minority to control what everyone else can read and see.

    The book is not controversial. It is recommended for children age 4 and up. Two seperate review committees composed of education professionals and other parents found it to be perfectly suitable. This was a bad decision and it will be reversed, one way or another.

    Every parent can find a book in their child’s library that contains an idea they disagree with. That doesn’t give us the right to decide for all the other parents what ideas can be there. If you don’t like the idea of same sex couples being parents, do what the rest of us do, and talk to your children about what you believe. You are not entitled to special rights.

    I’ll be happy to expand on that a bit. There are plenty of other books in the library that express viewpoints you would agree with. For other people to be imposing their will or exercising veto power over other parents’ judgment, those books would have to be challenged and removed. But happily, they are there for you or your children to enjoy and discuss. If I wish, I may discuss them with my child, also, and explain why I may disagree with them. That is a two-way street.

    This is called free access to ideas, and without it, education ceases to exist in any meaningful way.

    As I have pointed out numerous times now, the fact that there are children with two moms or two dads attending our public schools is not an abstract idea that a parent can “decide not to expose their children” to. These are people who attend school with them.

  2. David says:

    Also, your comment does seem to suggest that children in adoptive families are the equivalent of pets, or that those families are otherwise not “real” since their members “only” love each other and take care of each other, as if there is something missing from that description of family (what, exactly?). I’m sure that was not your intent.

  3. Jonathan says:

    Found this from 09/26/2007 blog titled Banned Books Week. Thought it was apropos.

    Fortunately, not all the challenges to library books are successful. Most are rejected by librarians and library boards–and the books stay on the shelves. In many ways, librarians are real heroes of the First Amendment, dedicated to keeping materials with a variety of social and political viewpoints available for readers.

    Many people don’t seem to grasp this point. They think that if they and their children use the library and their taxes help pay for the book, they should be able to determine what books the library offers. But they ignore the fact that other people might want to read precisely the books they object to and that their taxes also help pay for the books.

    Putting that another way, what they want is to control not only what they and their children take out from the library and read, but what everybody else and their children can take out and read. In other words, they have no regard for individual freedom or respect for the working of other people’s minds. I think we know where that can lead.

  4. Jonathan says:

    Here’s the stupidest blog of all times

    One need not fabricate scenarios of children possibly becoming interior decorators or gym teachers as a criticism of this material. Such fabricated criticism, arguments of straw, show themselves to be completely devoid of intelligence. The more important issue is the sexualization of young children and the inappropriate intrusion by a government agency (a school) into the bedroom of children and families.

    Guard your children. They are your children because you own the relationship, not the government.

  5. David says:

    This poor dude isn’t saying this in relation to the “Tango” book, I hope. If so, then he’d have to find every children’s book that depicts courtship, marriage or the production and rearing of young, animal or human, and demand its removal. All of them represent the “sexualization of young children.”

    Boy, that’s gonna be a lot of work.

  6. Katie Neville says:

    Every parent has the right to decide what his or her child can read. I would suggest that if their child checks out a book that they don’t approve of, that they send it back to the library. They do not however, have the right to set the standard for what my children can read. Public schools ARE public schools after all. They have GBLT students and GBLT staff. LCPS has many kinds of families. If you have trouble with this, then Christian schools and home schooling are other options you may want to consider.

  7. David says:

    I don’t understand why it’s not good enough for these parents to just talk to their children. If their influence over their child is so fragile that finding a story book is a threat, then it’s just as much a threat for their child to hear a classmate talk about what they did last weekend with Mommy and Mama. Are they really so clueless that they think this isn’t happening?

    We started a Facebook group. It seems that there are a lot of people who are pretty upset about this, and this is one way for them to get connected with each other.

    Although this started because a parent is freaking out over “The Gay Agenda™” it’s at least as much an intellectual freedom issue as it is a GLBT issue.

  8. Jon Frankel says:

    I live in Montgomery County, not Loudon County, so I just learned what’s going on via the recent round of articles. This turn of events makes me extremely sad. The book itself is innocuous and sweet, and, since it involves penguins, it is one of my five year old’s favorites. And yes, it has also been a useful and gentle tool for talking about the (multiple) LGBT families in her class. It is always sad when a parent decides to parent by hiding his or her child away from the world rather than giving that child the cognitive tools to understand it critically; it is even sadder when that parent takes it upon him or herself to decide for all families that no children should have access to these ideas.

    I got involved in the litigation in Montgomery County over the schools’ opt-in sex ed curriculum, not just because I supported the message of tolerance and respect being taught, but because like many parents, I found it offensive that a tiny group of parents had decided that it was not enough simply to opt their own children out of the curriculum; rather, they felt the need to prevent any student anywhere in the county from having access to these lessons, regardless of how that student’s own family felt. As the previous commenter here suggests, this is a question of intellectual freedom, and of preventing a tiny minority of appointing itself the arbiter of what values and ideas are even allowed to be considered in the community. It is also a question of hypocrisy: The same activists who claim that they are acting in the name of protecting their own family’s values from the intrusion of the school have no problem forcing their own preferences on the other families in the community who feel differently.

  9. David says:

    Thanks, Jon. I’ve been following events in Montgomery over at the Teach the Facts blog for quite awhile.

    And thank you for pointing out what I think is the central truth that these parents need to get through their heads: That their children are attending school alongside children from LGBT families. This “subject matter,” as the LCPS administration coyly refers to it, is not an abstract idea.

    It is at best insulting to suggest that any child is not “developmentally ready” to be introduced to the completely innocuous reality of other families at their school. At worst, it is spiritual and emotional violence to those families. Dr. Hatrick not only made an atrocious decision in pandering to this parent, he owes these families an apology.

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