Oh, That Song of Solomon!

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

A Hanover County parent has submitted a complaint to the school system’s Library Materials Committee about a book in school libraries, writing that its “vulgar and inappropriate” content depicts rape, prostitution, sexual assault, violence, illegal activities and sexual activities. The book:  The Bible;  specifically, the New International Version of the Bible.

To emphasize the harm she feared emanating from the accessibility of The Bible to her child, she stated, as reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, that she feared “it would absolutely turn my child into a groomed, immoral, prostituting, violent, polygamist and/or rapist.”

Under the Hanover County School Board’s  book review policy, amended last summer, any parent of a child in a Hanover County school or any resident of Hanover County “may file a challenge regarding any material located in a school’s comprehensive library or within a classroom library which is believed to contain sexually explicit content.” If the school principal or librarian determines that the challenged material meets the criteria for “deselection,” the material is removed from the school libraries. If the principal or librarian determines that the material does not meet the criteria, the challenge is forwarded to the Library Materials Committee, which reviews the material and makes a recommendation to the School Board. The School Board, by a majority vote, in its sole discretion, may remove any material from school libraries or classrooms.

The county schools have been aggressive about implementing the new policy.  Since its adoption, 94 titles have been ordered removed from library shelves, reports the Times-Dispatch.

Along with the Bible, the Library Materials Committee has another book to review. It is Valiant Ladies, “a young adult fiction novel set in the 17th century and based around two queer Latinx teenage girls.” The book was reviewed by library staff last spring before the policy was updated and judged by school staff to be appropriate for school. Nevertheless, a parent has challenged the book because it “is a lesbian romance filled with mystery and action promoting the idea of seeking what feels good, right and true. It promotes one to act on impulse, desire and feeling. It is also promoting the lesbian lifestyle.” Specifically, it contains “profanity, scenes in taverns or brothels, justice or vengeance through homicide, ‘dark evil thoughts’ and romance depicted between two women.”

The members of the review committee have determined it would be best for them to read the entirety of any book challenged before making a recommendation. It is expected that the two challenged books will come up for determination and recommendation at a meeting scheduled for Feb. 2.