Hempfield School District Book Ban Proposal Threatens Student Rights

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Lariah Bruce

A potential board policy change at Hempfield could lead to the banning of books that are considered sexually explicit. On June 13th at 7 pm, a board meeting will take place where students can make their voice heard. Some community members believe there is “inappropriate” content that should not be available to students, while others believe that restricting access to certain books is violating the rights of students.

The debate among the community is when to draw the line between material that is controversial. Many students believe they are entitled to books because of their First Amendment rights. They argue that censoring material does not allow them to think for themselves. Most fear that restricting information discourages learning outside of the curriculum. Others think that, at a young age, students should not be exposed to offensive content. However, books are not the only place students see material that is considered unsuitable for their age because students can easily access the internet.

Sarah Demaria, a librarian at Hempfield High School, said, “It is a slippery slope. Once we open the opportunity to remove these specific books, tomorrow’s controversy of violence, gore, magic, etc. in books is right around the corner.”

It’s difficult to find a way to satisfy both sides of the debate. If books aren’t limited at all, families don’t have any control over what is in their children’s lives. On the other hand, who is to determine what should be limited and what should stay? Demaria suggests, “Hiring and retaining certified, trained librarians to select books is the best way to curate libraries that reflect the community.”

For many students, the ban feels personal. Removing certain books is not fair to those whose families can’t afford books outside of school. Hempfield already has an “opt-out” procedure in place for parents who do not want their children to have access to library books. Books do not have to be restricted for everyone with this procedure. With a diverse library collection, everyone has a book they can identify with. Students are at a time in their lives when having something to relate to and learn from is crucial to their well-being.

Emma Dagget, a ninth grade student at Hempfield, responded to the potential ban, saying, “I think that the book ban shouldn’t happen because it restricts people’s access to information and ideas, especially in schools where kids are learning, growing, and their brains are developing. I think it’s really important to be exposed to things and ideas that are not typically accepted. It would limit growth and knowledge.”

The content that is deemed inappropriate for students’ age groups is about common problems in society. Eventually, students will learn about these topics. It is important that students have the ability to educate themselves beyond what is taught in school so that they can be aware of and knowledgeable about different cultures and problems in society. The district should be finding ways to provide more resources for learning, but instead they are trying to take them away.