The Tyranny of One

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The superintendent of the Spotsylvania County schools has removed 14 books from the school libraries in response to the complaint of one parent that the books had sexually explicit content. Two of the books removed were by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the superintendent claims that he was required to take that action by a law recently enacted by the General Assembly. However, that Code section (22.1-16.8) requires schools to notify parents about instructional material that may be sexually explicit and provide alternative nonexplicit instructional material for that student if the parent so requests. It says nothing about completely removing library books that are not assigned reading. Moreover, one of the enacting clauses of the legislation stipulates, “That the provisions of this act shall not be construed as requiring or providing for the censoring of books in public elementary and secondary schools.”

The superintendent claimed, “This is about maintaining libraries as a safe space for our children.”

When asked how many parents had spoken out about sexually explicit material in library books, the superintendent admitted that “parental engagement has been unfortunately rather light.” He suggested other parents had not participated because they had long commutes to work. He praised the one parent who had spoken out and suggested that, without her, the issue would not have “come to the fore here in Spotsylvania at all.”