“School freedom” or censorship?
Debbie Strouse, who is gay, is a graduate of the Pennridge School District. Now, she has a child and grandchild in a district school and has seen many instances of discrimination and anti-LGBTQ sentiment unchallenged by the administration.
She feels that this bias has now become official policy.
“There was always a question, what does this person think? They would smile. But you were never quite sure what was behind the smile, ”she said. “When it’s in writing. So you know.
Erin Eagles, from Perkasie, is the gay mother of a two-year-old and a local therapist for LGBTQ youth. She hung a rainbow flag on the window of her family’s house. Neighbors then tore up the flag several times.
“We will not send our child to the school district. We don’t feel safe, ”Eagles said. “I’m terrified that she’ll feel ashamed or that she can’t just talk about the most normal things, like her immediate family.”
But Eagles plans to stay home and fight the District.
“We’re trying to have another child and I’m afraid I’m doing the wrong thing. But if we leave this community it’s one less [family] here to normalize LGBTQ and other minority people, ”Eagles said.
Pennridge, like schools across the state and nation, has a habit of removing literature and various initiatives from its schools.
Over the summer, the district quietly removed two black authors from the English curriculum.
A local group called “Penridge for Education Liberty” posted on Facebook a description of the curriculum changes they requested that were made by the district, including removing authors of color and changing the wording of the title of the school. ‘unity. A section, for example, instead of being titled with words like “oppression” or “inequality”, is now titled “Dreams and challenges”.
“Someone judges these to be bad, dangerous, that we don’t like these,” Walczak said of program changes and library book removals.
He sees it as censorship and sees it as potentially vulnerable to a First Amendment challenge. The law says there must be a “substantial and reasonable basis” to interfere with educational decisions, but the book “Heather has two Mommies” contains no sex or violence, he notes.
“So the only reason you would do that is because you don’t approve of same-sex couples,” Walczak said. “Whether it is homophobia or racism, these are not substantial and reasonable educational interests. “
The ACLU attorney said he expects the matter to unfold in a courtroom next year.
“I guess we’re going to litigate at least one of these cases in 2022 somewhere,” Walczak said.
Aimee Emerson, president-elect and co-chair of the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association Local and National Advocacy Committee, said librarians will be ready to fight.
“I won’t stop,” Emerson said, “This will be the hill I die on. “
The PSLA is hosting a conference in January and is organizing a document to orient librarians in Pennsylvania to resources on censorship issues, which will likely be released to the public in early January.