Students and Community Members Rally Before School Board Meeting

By Julia Laszakovits

On Tuesday, October 25, students and community members came together to protest the potential removal of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl from the school and classroom libraries by the school board. Many protestors worry about the type of access that students will have. They believe that banning this book will lead to more restrictions within the school. “Censorship snowballs,” says Elizabethtown senior Adrian Grosh. Although Grosh is graduating this coming year, they are concerned for the future of the district, mentioning their younger sibling. Another issue that was highlighted in this rally was the potential for discrimination as a leading cause of book bans. Alisha Runkle, a parent in the district, noted the acceleration of book bans and challenges throughout the country, most of them impacting books that represent marginalized communities. Runkle says, “We need to make sure everyone is represented and that everyone can see themselves in a story.” Former educator Elizabeth Lewis questioned the authority of the school board to make decisions about books. As a former teacher herself, Lewis is disheartened by the widespread discounting of teachers’ opinions on reading material in schools. She says, “I would hope to see that the board would support the decisions of the professional educators.” Many citizens’ comments from the meeting reflected Lewis’s concerns. Mark Temons, who was, at the time, a candidate for the States House of Representatives in the 98th district, was also in attendance. Temons made it clear that banning books is a “constitutional issue.” He feels that decisions should be left to parents instead of the school board. Temons wants to let students know that they are not powerless in the issue. “Be active in your school,” Temons says. “Things can improve.” Citizens speaking at during the school board meeting who were in favor of the appeal believe that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is inappropriate for a school setting. These citizens referred to the book as “pornographic,” “vulgar,” and “uneducational” throughout their comments. A woman who identified herself as Bobby T stated, “We’ve never stated the word ban, we’re not looking to ban critical thinking.” Doug Lamb emphasized that school libraries are not the only place to access these books. The appeal to remove Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was denied with a 6-3 vote. Craig Hummer, Caroline Lalvani, Micheal Martin, James Read, Terry Seiders, and Karen Sweigart voted to deny the appeal, while James Emery, Danielle Lindemuth, and Stephen Lindemuth voted in favor of the appeal. At the next board meeting, November 8, the conversation continued with a request to review the policies governing the proceeding by which books are added to the school library.

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