Hastings School Board debates censorship after board members withdrew books from sale

Hastings Secondary School (FOX 9)

A new Hastings School Board member is speaking out about what she calls a ‘Facebook post full of lies’, accusing her and another school board member of removing books from school shelves a recent college book fair.

Board members Carrie Tate and Jessica Dressley said that while volunteering at the Hastings Middle School Scholastic book fair on Tuesday, they came across two books with a warning that it contained “adult content “.

They are recommended for students in grades 9 through 12, but the college has students in grades five through eight. After consulting with the president of the PTA and attempting to reach school book sales representative Scholastic, they went through these and five other books with adult content warnings.

They set them aside, so children would have to buy them in the presence of a parent. But after a post about the situation was shared on the Hastings Community Facebook page, hundreds of people commented.

“We weren’t saying the books couldn’t be available, that’s not our place,” says Dressely. “We weren’t acting as board members, that’s not our place. We weren’t acting as board members, we were acting as parents and thinking that oversight parenting had to take place with these books.”

While some defend school board members who pull the books, the vast majority criticized board members, saying they were overreaching and censoring.

“We have heard over and over again about parental choice. I feel like you have violated this right that belongs to me. I am upset because you did not have the power to do so,” said the vice-president, Stephanie Malm.

“I wish the school rep would respond. I really do,” Tate says. “I thought we were helpful in filling in that missing information.”

A Hastings grad we spoke to thinks it’s not fair for school board members to decide whether or not books about racism, sexual orientation or violence are appropriate.

“As a parent, you can decide what your children will read,” said Madeline McCabe. “But as a school board member, a PTA volunteer, those decisions aren’t yours to make. And by keeping kids out of stories about people who don’t look like them in the grand scheme of things, you only contribute to this lack of understanding and this sense of bigotry and possibly racism in the community.”

A former student we spoke to points out that much of this stems from a lack of trust in a few members of the school board. After last fall’s school board elections ended in a former member’s transgender child exposed. Whether or not it’s related to the current book fair situation depends on who you talk to.

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