This Parent Believes Pennridge School District is Secretly Banning Books

A protester holds a placard during a protest held by Philly Children's Movement against Moms For Liberty in Center City Philadelphia. Philly Children's Movement supporters and LGBTQ+ supporters gather to protest against the Mom's For Liberty, a group formed in 2021 to fight against COVID-19 Mandates. The Mom's For Liberty held their annual summit in Philadelphia. Mom's For Liberty is designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group and has been a vocal voice in anti-LGBT rhetoric and the push in banning certain books from schools and libraries. (Photo by Matthew Hatcher via Getty Images)

By Sean Kitchen

October 10, 2023

A parent from the Pennridge School District believes their school board is quietly removing books from their schools’ library shelves. The practice of removing books without going through the proper channels is known as “soft censorship.”

Daug Lausten, a parent in the Pennridge School District in Bucks County, has reason to believe that the right-wing school board is secretly banning books in their libraries. 

Lausten testified in front of a policy committee meeting in Harrisburg last week on book bans and listed a series of books he believes were banned by the school board. 

The books include: Looking for Alaska by John Green, Sold by Patricia McCormick, Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky, Out of Darkness by Ashley Perez, The Haters by Jesse Andrews, Push by Sapphire and Beloved, a Pulitzer Prize winning book by Toni Morrison. 

After showing the books to the committee, Lausten said, “Apparently this was the porn our school board needed to ban. Award winning books that have been in the school library for 5, 10, 20, even 30 years.”

In order to find out what happened to these books, Lausten, as reported by the Inquirer, identified more than a dozen books he believes were banned as a result of a policy from the school board by filing records requests, searching the school district’s card catalog and a court case. 

The problem with the suspected book bans was that none of the books went through a formal process or review. Instead they were pulled from the library shelves without any notice, which is a form of soft censorship.

The Inquirer went on to report that the Education Law Center based in Philadelphia has received complaints that at least six Pennsylvania school districts appear to have engaged in “soft censorship,” going around policies to ban books, said Deborah Gordon Klehr, who spoke at last week’s hearing. 

According to Pen America, an organization tracking book banning across the country, Pennsylvania ranks fifth in the country with 186 books being banned in seven school districts. The report indicates that those seeking to ban books use the “Book Looks” website, which contains a list of books for book banning advocates to target.   

Earlier this year while speaking to The Keystone about legislation to curb book banning, State Rep. Paul Friel (D-Chester) raised concerns surrounding the rhetoric around book banning and how that can lead to soft censorship.  

“You really start getting into dangerous territory where we get into either outright book bans or even something that’s a little more dangerous is the soft censorship, where teachers and administrators don’t outright ban a book. They just remove it from the shelves,” Friel said in an interview.  

“The more this happens, the more risk we are that our books and our libraries do not reflect the student body and the communities which we serve. And I think that type of soft censorship is the potential problem.” 

 

 

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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