Conservative parents in Loudoun County, Virginia are trying to block LGBTQ+ books from local schools as part of a contentious debate that’s lasted for months.
None of the books are required reading at the schools, located about fifty miles west of Washington D.C. They were supplied to schools over the summer to augment offerings in classrooms and libraries. Most of the books address a glaring lack of diverse perspectives in the school district’s available literature, with titles highlighting diverse racial, cultural, linguistic, and religious characters, and a few tackle sexual orientation and gender identity in an age-appropriate context.
LGBTQ+ titles include Heather Has Two Mommies, The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets, and A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities.
That was too much for some conservative parents, who have lashed out at various school board meetings. Spearheading the censorship effort is a group called Parent and Child Loudon, which has featured articles on its site about “why gender ideology harms kids.” The group wants any book affirming LGBTQ+ people to be pulled from schools.
But now the American Civil Liberties Union is involved, writing a letter to the district last month to point out that the First Amendment does not allow the government to prioritize certain speech, and that “purging certain books from school libraries because some parents do not like them is government action favoring the opinion of some parents over others.” No legal action has yet been threatened.
“Passing judgments, applying labels, and red-flagging educational materials that might prompt uncomfortable but insightful discussions are activities that do not belong in our public schools,” the legal advocacy group wrote.
The fight culminated in an unbearable six-hour meeting on October 22, with conservative parents holding signs reading “your diversity is perversity.”
Pro-censorship parents called the books “porn” that “normalizes peer-on-peer child sexual abuse.” One quoted U.S. Attorney General William Barr, saying: “The problem is not that religion is being forced on others. Secular values are being forced on people of faith. ... Ground Zero for these attacks on religion are the schools.”
More transphobic rhetoric came from physical education teacher Byron Cross, who said that the books “could potentially confuse a child of who they are biologically.”
Cross repeated the untrue claim that transgender children are subjected to irreversible treatments, telling the school board: “There are now hundreds of adults who are devastated because they cannot return to their biological gender due to someone stealing their true identity as a child.” There are no known cases of a book causing a child’s gender to change.
Another school board meeting is scheduled for next week. LGBTQ+ supportive students and parents are planning to make a strong showing. In the meantime, Loudoun County officials are reviewing at least 10 of the books, of which four have LGBTQ+ themes.