Speed Reads

No burn

Virginia local school board reverses ban of 'sexually explicit' books after public outcry

A week after voting 6-0 to remove all "sexually explicit" books from school libraries, Virginia's Spotsylvania County School Board voted 5-2 on Tuesday to rescind that decision. The two board members who voted to keep last week's ban on sexually explicit books, Kirk Twigg and Rabih Abuismail, raised eyebrows and hackles by suggesting the board burn those books. (They now say they were not serious about burning books, The Washington Post reports.)

The short-lived ban was prompted by a mother and father who complained at a Nov. 8 meeting about two books — Call Me By Your Name, about a gay relationship, and 33 Snowfish, an American Library Association 2004 Best Book for Young Adults. The mother said a search of the school system's online library catalog turned up 172 hits for "gay" and 84 for "lesbian."

Dozens of students, parents, and teachers showed up at Monday's board meeting to protest the book ban. One high school student said censorship is "contagious and leads to much worse," The Free Lance-Star reports, while a county librarian said that "if you have a worldview that can be undone by a novel, let me suggest that the problem is not the novel."

Board member Baron Brasswell said the school district attorney had warned the Spotsylvania board their order probably wasn't constitutional, and Brasswell also told the Post he wouldn't have voted for the ban in the first place if he had known the school district already has a mechanism for parents to complain and challenge school library books. "None of us, for certain, ever believed in censorship or burning books. That's just not who we are," Braswell insisted. "Everybody was caught off guard last week."