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Virginia Beach schools evaluating concerns over 6 books

December 10, 2021 GMT

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — Virginia Beach City Public Schools administrators are expected to announce later this month whether six books that have been at the center of intense school board meeting debates will remain in the system’s curriculum and libraries.

School board member Victoria Manning prompted the books to be reviewed when she contacted the superintendent with concerns related to sexual content and the educational equity policy, WAVY-TV reported.

Manning flagged four books for graphic passages, some of which the school board wouldn’t allow to be read aloud at a meeting.

Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” and “A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest J. Gaines center around race and racism. “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe and Jonathan Evison’s “Lawn Boy” feature people struggling with gender identity and sexuality.

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But student Ure Emejuru pointed out there are many other books with graphic content that Manning didn’t ask to be pulled.

“‘1984’ or Shakespeare or parts of the Bible have examples of sexual actions,” Emejuru said. “I think the fact that it’s mainly LGBTQ+ books and books by POC authors is very deliberate.”

Manning told the station that two other books — “Good Trouble: Lessons from the Civil Rights Playbook” by Christopher Noxon and Susan Kuklin’s “Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out” — may violate the board’s equity protocol. It states that curriculum materials “shall be examined for bias.”

School system spokesperson Natalie Allen said those books are on library shelves, not in the curriculum. She also said WAVY’s inquiry was the first time the administration heard that the concerns over the two texts were connected with the policy.

Committees of six or seven people — including a parent, student, library media specialist and administrators — are assessing each book, according to Chief Academic Officer Dr. Kipp Rogers.

Rogers said he could only remember three other times during his 11 years in school administration when “it’s gotten to the central office where we have to do a formal review.” Curriculum issues are usually resolved during conversations between a parent and principal, he said, and a book was never pulled from the system.

Rogers said he hopes the current reviews are an educational opportunity for parents, students and the community.