Emails uncovered show far-right law firm provided legal advice
THE LATEST: Emails we uncovered show that the Independence Law Center, a far-right law firm, provided legal advice on multiple district policies to the Central York district superintendent in October 2022 and again in January 2023.Read More
UPDATE: In response to our request for documents from the Central York School District to further understand the process by which books and educational materials are being removed from shelves in the District, we received information regarding complaints filed against three different books: Push, A Court of Mist and Fury, and Sold. The documents also include the assessments for the removal of each of these books made by the school district’s review committee.
The three requests to remove books were made in September 2022 by Faith Casale, a former school board member who lost a close reelection in 2021 and is running again in 2023. The fact that one person – Ms. Casale – was behind three book challenges is consistent with a recent analysis of book challenges across the country by the Washington Post that showed a majority of challenges were filed by just 11 people. Earlier this year, Rhonda Garman, chapter chair of York County’s Moms for Liberty, took credit for the challenge to Push, which the documents disclosed by the District appear to refute.
According to the disclosed records, Ms. Casale sought to prohibit all Central York students from having access to the three books, instead of seeking more limited relief covering just her children or providing the books under teacher direction. Her challenges were reviewed by a committee made up of two administrators, two teachers and a librarian. Following that review, two of the books were banned from the Central York High School library.
Casale’s requests also led the school board to consider a raft of policies related to when — and how — students can be blocked from accessing certain books. On June 12, the school board continued its consideration of those policies. A final decision by the board is expected on June 20.
In 2021, Pennsylvania’s Central York School District garnered national attention over an attempt to ban hundreds of books, documentary films, and articles from classrooms. The list of banned materials was originally compiled by a diversity committee to serve as a resource guide for teachers and students in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the protests that followed, and was largely composed of work by people of color and/or about people of color.
When the Central York School Board quietly voted to ban, rather than make available, the items on the list, they were met with weeks of protests from students, teachers, parents, and community members. According to PEN America, Central York was the district with the highest number of banned books in the country while the ban was in effect.
While that public pressure forced the Board to reverse that ban at the end of 2021, the District hasn’t given up. In March 2023, it removed two more books from the high school library after they were deemed inappropriate by a committee: Push, a 1996 novel by Sapphire, and A Court of Mist and Fury, a fantasy novel by Sarah J. Maas. Superintendent Peter Aiken said that Push was removed because it contained sexual content and descriptions of abuse that did “not meet the standard of development appropriateness for independent reading material.”
Traditionally, debates over which books and curriculum are appropriate in schools have taken place between a concerned parent and a librarian or administrator. But recently, the issue has been supercharged by a rapidly growing and increasingly vocal minority that seeks to impose their views on all parents and educators. According to a recent report from PEN America, there are at least 50 groups across the country working to remove books they object to from libraries. Some have seen explosive growth recently: Of the 300 chapters that PEN tracked, 73 percent were formed after 2020.