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Hempfield Area School District creates policy for book challenges

Hempfield Area School Board creates policy for book challenges
Hempfield Area School Board creates policy for book challenges 02:39

GREENSBURG, Pa. — Book challenges in schools across the country have reached unprecedented numbers.

But in Westmoreland County, at least one school district appears to have reached a resolution on how to decide what books can stay and which should go. 

Suzann Kerlin Ward is a parent in the Hempfield Area School District. She, along with many other concerned parents, has voiced concerns to the school board about what they consider to be inappropriate material found in several books in the district libraries.

"At first I thought this material was only for the high school library," Ward said. "Then you find out it was purchased for the curriculum in 2020, numerous copies. Then as of a couple of months ago, it was the middle school."

In light of the recent outcry, school board members voted unanimously to begin a 30-day review of regulations to challenge books in district libraries. Anything with sexual content, ethnic intimidation or other mature topics will be reviewed.

With the proposed regulations, if a parent challenges a book, they will first meet informally with a teacher or librarian. If an agreement cannot be made, the parent can file a formal complaint. A committee will then be formed and a vote will take place.

The superintendent of schools, Dr. Tammy Wolicki, said, in part:

"While there have been opposing opinions on what should or should not be included in these procedures, I believe the outcome is an agreeable process that supports a school library collection that meets the needs of all learners."

Ward hopes this new process will take questionable books off the library shelves and leave the ones children need.

"We don't want to get rid of free speech, but we're dealing with minors and we need to be very cautious," she said. "We have one shot at getting these individuals to be productive members of society and why would we want to ruin that?"

The school board is expected to vote on implementing these regulations next month.

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