Parents Express Concern Over Harford County's New School Library Review Committee
HARFORD COUNTY - At Monday's meeting of the Harford County Board of Education, parents and community leaders voiced their concerns over the creation of a new committee focused on evaluating school library materials.
The committee was discussed at a Harford County Council meeting on September 5. At the meeting, Councilman Aaron Penman said he had contacted school superintendent Dr. Sean Bulson about the content in school libraries, which led to discussions about establishing a standard policy for appropriate materials.
At Monday's Harford County Board of Education meeting, Bulson clarified that the group is not a "book review committee," stating that it is tasked with examining current practices concerning the purchase and evaluation of school library books.
"We want to find common ground," Bulson said. "We have to look at the process we use when we purchase books and the process of how we are reviewing books when they are challenged."
Kyle Andersen, a spokesperson for Harford County Public Schools, clarified in an email that the newly formed group is not a book review committee, the Baltimore Sun reports. Andersen stated that the primary goal of this group is to examine existing practices within Harford County Public Schools and consider potential changes. The group will make recommendations but is responsible for reviewing books and making final decisions.
Despite Bulson's reassurances, parents expressed their concerns that the newly formed committee is influenced by the politically conservative organization Moms for Liberty. Board members Melissa Hahn and Diane Alvarez received endorsements from the Harford County chapter of Moms for Liberty in the 2022 elections, and two other members have reported ties to the group.
"We are at a crossroads with freedom of speech and censorship. When I look at the actions from this Moms for Liberty group, some members of which are sitting on the board, they are a huge driver behind these challenges," local parent Cheryl Adams said at the meeting. "I see a group that is consistently trying to eliminate the LGBTQ community and erase the accurate history of slavery that is the actual foundation of this country."
Charlene Hought, an 18-year HCPS veteran, expressed her hope that Harford doesn't follow the example recently set in Carroll County.
"Banning books or censoring reading materials for our students and advocating for the right of every single child in each school is very important to me," Hought said.
Carroll County officials are currently considering petitions to take away 53 books from the libraries of public schools, with the majority of the removal requests initiated by the local Moms for Liberty group.
Other speakers raised questions about transparency in the committee's formation, asking why the public was not informed earlier.
Christy Larkin, who serves on the school system's Parent Advisory, Advocacy, and Action Council, mentioned she had received an email about the group's formation in July but had yet to hear back after expressing interest in learning more about it.
"I replied that I am interested in learning more about the intended goals for this committee, what was the anticipated time commitment, and who from the Board of Education is currently assigned or appointed to it. I didn't hear from them again," Larkin said.
Superintendent Bulson assured attendees that the process would be transparent as it evolves. He explained that a different group would be responsible for reviewing any challenged books, emphasizing the need for community trust as conversations get underway.
The next board meeting is scheduled for Monday, September 18 at 6:30 p.m.
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