West Chester Area SD to Retain Two Library Books Following Committee Recommendations

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WEST CHESTER, PA — After receiving official recommendations during the School Board Meeting held on Monday, March 28, 2022, the West Chester Area School District has voted to keep Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer: A Memoir and Emily Rose Oachs’ Escaping a Sinking Ship within the district’s libraries. Following questions raised regarding content within the books during School Board Meetings and the submission of complaint forms to the District, the District formed Book Review Committees to review the two titles.

Officials state that per District administration guideline 906AG2, Book Review Committees consist of at least one parent or guardian, community member, student, principal, supervisor, teacher, librarian, Board member, and Superintendent designee.

“For both Committees, the district involved multiple students, parents, community members, and administrators,” said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kalia Reynolds. “We wanted to have robust conversations that fully examined the challenges, appropriateness, and artistic quality of these books as well as their ability to provide value and information,” she added.

The recommendations to keep both titles within the library collection come as a result of the Committee’s discussions and the guidance detailed in established District policies. As outlined in District policy 109.1, the District is committed to its responsibility to provide free access to a comprehensive collection of materials that promote the cultural, social, ethical, and educational development of students.

Additionally, District administrative guideline 109.1 AG1 aligns with the American Association of School Librarians and Library Bill of Rights in stating the obligation of school libraries to provide, “materials on opposing sides of controversial issues so that young citizens may develop under guidance the practice of critical reading and thinking” and “materials representative of the many religious, ethnic, and cultural groups.”

“Decisions such as these are not made lightly, and, on behalf of the school board, I want to thank both Book Review Committees for their serious dedication to examining these titles and the subject matter they present to our students,” said Dr. Kate Shaw, who chairs the District’s Education Committee. “While not all members of our community will agree with the outcome, our policies and the thorough and thoughtful recommendations that have been presented to the board for review guide us in making these decisions,” she added.

Kobabe’s Gender Queer: A Memoir, a personal narrative that is only available in the high school libraries, offers a true account of navigating self- and gender identity as well as sexual orientation. This Stonewall Award Honoree and American Library Association’s Alex award-winning title includes sexual content as part of its exploration of nonbinary gender identity. Kobabe has noted that the book was written to help those struggling with their own identity through its unique perspective and support.

Oachs’ Escaping a Sinking Ship, an elementary-level chapter book, shares the stories of ships that have sunk throughout history. The fourth chapter of the book examines the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, which sunk while carrying German citizens and soldiers who were fleeing the country to escape Soviet forces in 1945. The ship, which was named after a Nazi leader, was at one time used as a luxury vessel and barracks for Nazi soldiers but was later altered for use as a means of evacuation for German citizens. The book offers an examination of this historical event and loss of lives aboard the ship.

“As these are optional books within the library’s vast collection and offer our students an inclusive and unique perspective concerning the problems and issues of the current time and the past, the books will remain within the District,” said Dr. Reynolds.

Officials also state that, as is its policy, the West Chester Area School District will continue to work with parents, guardians, and members of the community to address concerns regarding books while also maintaining access to materials that provide information and greater understanding for our students.

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