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Local Moms for Liberty chapter accused of manufacturing a ‘crisis’ before election

Dave McCormick

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - JUNE 30: A person speaks ahead of Former Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley speaking at the Moms for Liberty Summit in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2023. (Photo by Hannah Beier for the Washington Post.)

By Sean Kitchen

October 20, 2023

A local Moms for Liberty chapter was caught manufacturing a crisis around a book in the Warwick School District. Some are questioning the timing with school board elections around the corner. 

A recent Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee hearing on removing “explicit content,” or banning books from schools demonstrated how Moms for Liberty and their supporters are able to manufacture crises that draw the attention of elected officials. 

On Tuesday, Republicans in the state Senate invited Warwick School District board member Emily Zimmerman to testify about explicit books in front of the Education Committee, according to LNP, a daily newspaper in Lancaster

Zimmerman told the committee about an interaction she had with a local high school student who raised concerns about a book. The student said they came across the book in question, “Queer,” while printing out materials in the library, and reported the book at a school board meeting earlier this month in an attempt to have it banned under a school district policy. 

But it turns out the student was the son of the Moms for Liberty Lancaster County chair, raising questions about the true motivation behind the complaint. 

According to LNP’s reporting, local residents feel like this is a manufactured issue in the weeks leading up to important school board elections. 

“Well the timing is quite strategic,” Shirley Showalter, a Litiz resident, told LNP in an email. “The book was ‘found’ at the last meeting before the election.” 

She went on to call it a “manufactured crisis.”

State Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster), who is pursuing legislation to ban books in public schools, was less than thrilled with the original reporting. 

“This represents a new low for @LancasterOnline and crosses a line from journalism to political advocacy, just weeks before a school board election,” Aument posted on X, which used to be known as Twitter. 

Organizations such as Moms for Liberty are responsible for pushing book bans across the country. According to PEN America, an organization dedicated to tracking book bans across the country, Pennsylvania ranks fifth in the country in classroom book bans, with 186 books being banned in seven school districts. 

State Sen. Amanda Cappelletti (D-Montgomery) and State Rep. Paul Friel (D-Chester) have both introduced legislation to ban book banning.  

Cappelletti’s legislation would require local libraries to adopt the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights and develop a written statement that prohibits local libraries from banning books or other materials. Libraries that do not comply would be denied state funding. 

Friel’s Freedom to Read Act would create panels composed of teachers, superintendents, librarians, and other teaching professionals to review book bans that are pushed by local school boards or outside organizations. 

 

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

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