Who is behind first Central Bucks School District book challenge? It may come as a surprise.
Someone in the Central Bucks School District administration is behind the first test of the district's new controversial library book policy, and if successful, five book titles — all but one containing LGBTQ themes — could be removed.
District librarians were notified about the challenge on Dec. 1, according to sources with knowledge of the review. Monday is the deadline for the review committee’s written report.
The administrative regulations set a 60-day deadline for final reports after request for review is made, though a 30-day extension can be granted, which would set the new deadline at March 1. A district spokesman did not respond to an email asking if the report will be completed by Monday.
More: CBSD controversial library policyConservative group involved in Central Bucks library regulations some fear as defacto book ban
The spokesman also did not provide answers for who in the administration is challenging the books, which the district described as an “ongoing review.”
Sources familiar with the challenge confirmed the book titles under review for “sexualized content” are:
“Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe
“This Book is Gay” by Juno Dawson
“Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison
“Beyond Magenta” by Susan Kuklin
“Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews.
Central Bucks has 15 copies of the books on its library shelves in the three high schools and three of the five middle schools, according to the school district’s online library catalog. None of the libraries have all five books available for loan.
Superintendent Abram Lucabaugh has not restricted access to the books under review in the first challenge, according to the district. The superintendent has the sole authority over whether challenged books remain on shelves during a review, according to the policy’s administrative regulations.
As of Friday, only three of the 15 books were not signed out, and 11 were listed as overdue, according to the library catalog. The lone copy of “Beyond Magenta” at Central Bucks East High School’s library doesn’t have to be returned until June 1, according to the catalog.
Two copies of “Me, Earl and the Dying Girl,” the only non-LGBTQ-themed book being reviewed, were listed as available at Tamanend Middle School and Central Bucks East High School and the district’s only copy of “This Book is Gay” was also listed available at Tamanend.
District spokesman Kevin Shinkle did not respond to emailed questions asking why the five books were chosen, the status of the current review process underway, or how the public will be notified of books challenges and reviews and their outcomes.
Shinkle added no “outside” challenges to any books in the district library have been filed since the policy took effect.
Lucabaugh said the book titles under review are ones that came up throughout the library policy debate, in a written statement. He added that it’s the district’s responsibility to guard against the “sexualization of children.”
“To have not taken a look at some of the titles that were raised over more than a year ago, to pretend that we don’t know that graphic, illustrated, highly descriptive sexualized content is in some books, would be akin to looking the other way,” Lucabaugh wrote. “It is our duty to check it out, to ask questions, and to let our professionals do their jobs, and then to make informed decisions.”
District Library Coordinator Melissa Burger declined comment on the review.
Under the administrative regulations, each time a book is challenged a new review committee will be assembled though the district’s library coordinator and language arts coordinator are standing members.
The administrative regulations do not specify the size or makeup of challenge committees. The district said that each committee will include a librarian, language arts teacher and administrator from the school where the book is located.
Librarians and language arts teachers from other schools where the same book is located could also serve, the district said. Each committee will have an odd number of participants, and the superintendent has sole authority to choose committee members.
The challenge committee will produce a written report with recommendations, but the superintendent can ignore them, under the district regulations.
If a book is deemed age-inappropriate and should be removed, the book will be replaced with another title of the same genre or with a similar educational purpose, under the regulations.
The regulations specify that the review committee report will be shared with school board members, library coordinator, librarians and the individual or group that made the challenge. Regulations make no mention of releasing the report to the public and Shinkle did not answer questions about public access to challenge outcomes.
The school board spent about six months hashing out the final draft of a new policy that officials said would prevent “sexually explicit” material from being purchased and allowed any resident in the district to challenge a book in its libraries.
The policy push started shortly after an online group, Woke PA, began pushing to remove books from school libraries mainly focused on LGBTQ issues and characters. The four books with LGBTQ-themes in this first CBSD challenge are on the Woke PA list.
The school board approved the library policy in July, but the administrative regulations necessary to implement it were not approved until recently.
School board President Dana Hunter and Lucabaugh have pushed back against accusations that the policy would remove books based on a select few passages of content.
Earlier this month the district faced new criticism for allowing attorneys affiliated with the Pennsylvania Family Institute, a nonprofit conservative group focused on “religious liberty’ and anti-LGBTQ policies, to review the policy’s administrative regulations.
The ACLU of Pennsylvania is aware of the Central Bucks book challenge and it is monitoring the situation, staff attorney Richard Ting said.
More:Central Bucks voters protest plan for redistricting voting regions for school board
More on the CBSD voting realignment Central Bucks looks to realign voting regions. How it impacts voters, and why some may be sidelined for 2 years
Find out why CBSD teachers walked outCentral Bucks School District teachers walk out of meetings over new policy
This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Central Bucks School District reviewing five library books for removal