A Look at the Diverse Classroom Library Controversy

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A Look at the Diverse Classroom Library Controversy

Loudoun County Public Schools held a School Board Meeting on Nov 12 to discuss the Controversy surrounding the Diverse Classroom Library Initiative. 

The 2019-2020 school year brought major changes to LCPS classrooms. Chromebooks and wide screen TVs changed how students learn in the classroom, but it’s a whole new initiative that has the public talking. ‘Diverse Classroom Libraries’ have been met with a huge controversy surrounding its contents, and concerns have made their way all the way to the superintendent. 

The 1.9 million dollar initiative added books to Kindergarten through 12th grade English classrooms across the county with the hopes to celebrate students and their differences.  Between 92 to 98 percent of books focus on “diverse race, culture, language, and religion,” three percent on disabilities, and five percent on the LGBTQ community (Loudoun Times). The books are not required learning, and are optional to the students if they so choose to read them.

The books’ mature content is a major concern of opposers, for it introduces topics to students that are not traditionally taught in the classroom. “I was extremely surprised and freaked out… the content sexualiy objectified women,” said speaker Jolene Grover when explaining a book synopsis she had read. “Why on Earth did my librarians think it was a good idea to promote this book to middle schoolers?” Grover, a middle schooler herself, expressed her opposition to the initiative at the LCPS School Board meeting.

LCPS’s decision to include LGBTQ literature into the initiative held the spotlight throughout the meeting. Books like Heather has two Mommies by Leslea Newman and Beyond Magenta by Susan Kulkin have all come under fire for their LGBTQ themes. Opposers used their one minute on the stand to ridicule LCPS administrators for their decision to add “sexual propaganda” to the classroom (Washington Post), and argue that the content goes against their families’ moral and religious beliefs. 

However, waves of support have backed the county’s decision to implement LGBTQ texts into the libraries. “I can’t imagine how my life would have changed if I had seen myself in one of those books,” said speaker and activist Willow Woycke. Woycke, a transgender woman, believes that seeing herself and her struggles in books at a young age would have made her more confident in her identity. 

Currently 10 high school level diverse books are under review by the Department of Instruction for their content, and none have been removed from the shelves (as of Nov 22). Books reviewed at the DOI level have been challenged more than once, and require an elected LCPS committee to review the book cover to cover. If the committee decides the books are not appropriate for the classroom, schools may relocate them into the general library or a higher grade level’s classroom, or remove the book all together.

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