After much consideration, I decided to share here about my son’s experience at BHS Library earlier this school year.
Surrounding the topic of High School Library materials with explicit sexual content, my son wanted to further his understanding of the issue and requested two books through the BHS library website (by filling out a form on the school website) .
The books requested are (pictures above) – Irreversible Damage (by: Dr. Abigail Shrier) and – Cynical Theories (by: Helen Pluckrose, & James Lindsay) Both books are highly regarded by multiple sources, including the Publisher Weekly, Economist, Times, WSJ, Financial Times, and Sunday Times etc.
These books arrived at BHS library on an inter-library loan. When my son went to pick them up, a student volunteer helped him. They scanned his school ID to access his library account, and a warning message immediately popped up.
The warning posted by the BHS librarian said: [QUOTE] “Requested two books one that is anti-trans the other got no official reviews but the unofficial reviews I found deemed this slow, plodding, and too academic. They also found fault with the premise that scholarships by race ruined everything. I did not purchase. Will try to have a personal conversation with student. If you see him and I’m here, can you covertly get me?” [QUOTE ENDS].
My son read this warning message with the student volunteer standing next to him. Feeling shocked, confused, embarrassed, and a bit scared, too, he left the library that day, without any book. On a later date, he returned to the library and asked for help from a staff member who was very kind to help him check out these books without having to involve the librarian who asked for a “personal conversation”. However, my son later told me that he “was on pins and needles the entire time.”
Some of my thoughts: What was the purpose of this warning message – was it to deter my son’s access to these books? Or was it to book shame him? The effect is that he doesn’t visit school library as often after this incident. He loves the library but now he hesitates to go. Is this censorship? Why is a “personal conversation” called for? Are books like Gender Queer also flagged due to content? Are we saying that students can freely (and are encouraged) to read books with explicit content (since they are all featured front and center) while books like Irreversible Damage are depicted as “anti-trans” and held behind counters such that anyone who wants to read it will need to pass the librarian’s screening first?
I believe that our high school students are capable of drawing that conclusion on their own. Administratively, this is a violation of the D220 Library Collection Policy (some would say this is a procedure), Selection Criteria, which purports to “Represent(s) opposing points of view on controversial issues, encouraging individual analysis”.
Last summer (June 2022), amid overwhelming D220 community feedback about books with explicit content, BHS librarian and Assistant Principal re-evaluated Gender Queer and wrote: “It is the responsibility of the library media center to provide a wide range of materials on all levels of difficulty, with diversity of appeal and the presentation of different points of view. Materials are selected to reflect cultures, beliefs, and viewpoints of our diverse community.”
In the past 10+ years, our family has had very positive experience in the District and enjoyed the various programs it offers. We got to know so many wonderful teachers and parents. This recent library experience is definitely not typical of D220, nonetheless very disappointing and alarming to our family. I am also saddened to see that the board voted, multiple times, despite community objection, to keep inappropriate content at school.
Thank you for reading.
Lei Yang – Barrington D220 Parent