Virginia Beach School Board reviews books in school libraries

by | May 4, 2023 | Other News

The Virginia Beach School Board met on Tuesday, April 25, to discuss, among other topics on their agenda, potential changes to the library media centers in each of the division’s schools.

Virginia Beach citizens of all backgrounds spoke at the meeting about their concerns about topics on the evening’s agenda.  It is important to know that policies enacted by the division must be studied and either reestablished or canceled every five years, as with several agenda items.

Among some of the proposed changes was a review process for the digital and print items contained in each school library. Using a recently enacted law, the Virginia Beach School Board has begun a process by which to identify materials that feature sexually explicit content and how to administer these items depending on the grade levels the library serves. Under the potential policy, many commonly known titles are identified as sexually explicit, such as The House on Mango Street, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. These books can be found on a list put forth by the school board as having the potential to be segregated from the other materials housed in the library.

Larry Siegel was one of dozens who spoke at the meeting. “As all of the librarians noted in their remarks, this proposed Policy is not necessary, is an administrative nightmare for them, is a very bad idea, and infringes on free speech,” he says.  “As I noted, if adopted, it will harm the stellar reputation of the City of Virginia Beach School System and impede the ability of businesses – large and small – to recruit exceptional candidates to the Virginia Beach.”

Lisa Bertini spoke about the personal impact of several books. “Books change lives. In high school, my elder daughter read The House on Mango Street and was transported. She would read passages to me that dance with magical metaphors. She learned about empathy and what Hispanic people have to give up to live in America. That book changed her for good.

“When I saw Shakespeare’s work on this list I wept. Shakespeare’s Opus is arguably the most important literature in the world.  To banish his Romeo and Juliet is to rob teenagers of falling in love with words.”

Siegel made clear he strongly opposes this new Policy noting “the history of the Holocaust that involved the banning and burning of books as a precursor to the burning of people.”

-Elka Mednick