New Diverse Classroom Libararies Spark Controversy

Advocates preparing to speak at the LCPS school board meeting

Advocates preparing to speak at the LCPS school board meeting

Written by Benjamin Alter, Maryam Khan, and Ashleigh Moffett

This past summer, Loudoun County Public Schools carried out an initiative to better represent students of a variety of social and ethnic backgrounds by introducing “diverse classroom libraries” into schools throughout the county. These libraries, a collection of culturally responsive and diverse texts introduced into English classrooms, have not been met without controversy.

The books encompass stories and authors of various religions, cultures, and sexual orientation. The books are available to all students, but students are not required to read the books.

However, parents, teachers, and students throughout the county have different assessments of the libraries. Some in opposition to the libraries feel uncomfortable with the presence of LGBTQ relationships and the content presented in some of the books because they are concerned that it may be indoctrinating readers. Additionally, some parents are concerned that the books contain sexual themes and other content that students shouldn’t be exposed to, some even quoting passages with foul language and sexual content at a school board to prove their point.

LCPS parent Natassia Grover said, “I really have a problem with people teaching children that it’s possible to be born into the wrong body,” and later stating that, “It is 100 percent a political agenda.”

By contrast, others have rallied around the libraries, feeling that they’re vital to building community, providing students with a variety of viewpoints, and representing regularly under-represented communities.

Woodgrove High School AP Literature teacher In Sim feels that due to Woodgrove’s lack of diversity, these books are especially needed. She says, “Diversity in literature is an excellent idea, particularly at Woodgrove. This is a much needed, necessary library.”

Member of group Equality Loudoun and vocal LGBTQ advocate Charlotte McConnell is excited to provide some students with support and others with insight into a different lifestyle.

She said, “Every student should have access to books that mirror their lived experiences. Students also need to have a window into the lives of people who are different from their own lives. This helps to build empathy, compassion, and understanding.”

She goes on to say that, “8% of high school students identify as Lesbian, Gay, or Bisexual. I think having 5% of the books in the Diverse Classroom Library have LGBTQ content is long overdue.”

Tom Marshall, Leesburg District School Board Member, shared his perspective on diversifying books throughout LCPS and how it came to be. He shared that the school systems ordered around a million dollars worth of books, but with the time constraint, it was hard to have teachers/ principals
vet every book they ordered.

An example of a diverse classroom library

Marshall further explains the LCPS vetting policy, “I probably would be concerned about some of the language and descriptions myself. Not to censor, because I’m against censorship,” going on to state that if a parent were to feel strongly that a book be removed, they should follow policy to get it removed.

As of press time, despite the public outcry, only four books out of 1600 titles have been offically challenged by Loudoun parents.

To some, the books seem as a step in the right direction, but to others, a political agenda. When discussing whether the books’ flagrant content is dangerous for students, Librarian Robert Kane says, “In the sense that developing empathy, empowering marginalized voices, and expanding our sense of community is dangerous to the status quo, yes.”