North Penn parents bash board over books in school libraries – The Reporter

TOWAMENCIN — Parents took aim at the North Penn School Board once again on Thursday night, bashing the board for books they claim don’t belong in schools.
“Do hearing these words make you feel uncomfortable as an adult? How do you think this makes a kid feel? I’m actually sick to my stomach, thinking that my kid could go to one of the libraries in this district, and pick this up,” said parent Carrie Rocks.
During a lengthy school board meeting at North Penn High School on Thursday night, Rocks and a handful of parents read for the board excerpts from books they claimed to have found recently in district schools — excerpts that prompted a content warning on the district NPTV channel’s video of the meeting.
As she spoke, Rocks introduced herself as a mother of four from Upper Gwynedd, then held up enlarged photos of pages from “Gender Queer,” a graphic novel addressing gender identity that she claimed “is in the high school.” As she showed the pages depicting sex acts, and read excerpts including words likely never before said at a school board meeting, she questioned the board.
“Who made the decision to OK this? I know for a fact that this book list had to come across one of your desks, to approve. Is it your intent to groom our children? Who made it your job to steal their innocence?” she said.
“Just because you think we’ve only been paying attention for six months, doesn’t mean we’re blind to what’s been going on. It’s a constant barrage of your terrible policies, and mismanagement of our schools, that has pushed us to a tipping point. You are Satan’s pawns to me right now. You are all disgusting,” Rocks said.
Vicki Flannery of North Wales gave a similar warning before reading excerpts from “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” a book she claimed “up until this week, resided in the Oak Park Elementary library. This book was removed because of one of our parents.”
Flannery then read excerpts from that book describing sex acts, before taking aim at the board.
“Do any of you, any of you, find this book that depicts a sexual encounter and rape acceptable for any minor, regardless of gender or sexual orientation? Because I do not find this at all acceptable,” she said.
“A child is a child, and if you see this as acceptable, you belong on a national registry, and not a school board,” Flannery said.
Parent Ken Ferry of Hatfield gave a similar warning before he read explicit excepts from a book called “Lawn Boy” he claimed he found at Penndale Middle School.
“Going to school board meetings to stay up to date on our children’s scholastic upbringing, and holding academia accountable, used to be called good parenting. Today, it’s called domestic terrorism,” he said.
“No one is bullying you. We are not domestic terrorists. We are taxpaying citizens, and concerned parents, holding you accountable, because you work for us. We don’t work for you,” Ferry said.
Jason Lanier of Lansdale questioned the board’s choices of books and classroom lessons teaching what he termed “Critical Race Theory,” and said he had developed a list of books in the schools he felt were objectionable based on their lessons on racial and sexual topics.
“Why do you have these books in the schools? Why are you implementing this kind of thing in the schools? Why do you look to divide the kids into sections or groups, and then pair them against each other, in order for one group to feel better and one group  feel less? How is this benefiting anybody?” he said.
“There’s a whole lot of books in our libraries which really have no business being there. A bunch of them talk about Critical Race Theory, and talking about how good it is. A bunch of them talk about very sexually explicit content,” Lanier said.
Throughout roughly an hour of public comment at the start of the meeting, and then another half-hour at the end after other board business, roughly 60 to 70 parents and residents watched the meeting in person at the high school, with the NPTV livestream hovering around 100 additional viewers at times. As they spoke, several parents from the local “Moms for Liberty” chapter wore matching t-shirts that read “We do not co-parent with the government” or “Let’s Go Brandon,” as others shared their thoughts.
Alexis Drolet said she had recently followed district cultural proficiency training and learned valuable lessons, including that of a Black speaker at a seminar whom she said was “mistaken as the hired help, where she was in fact the keynote speaker.”
“This moved me deeply, and reminded me quite sharply that I walk around every day with a privilege that I did not earn. It did not make me feel bad about myself, but it opened my eyes to the experience of someone who does not look like me,” she said.
David Schuetz of Hatfield thanked the board “for the way you have conducted yourself, in the face of some pretty despicable abuses” from the community, regarding their handling of COVID-19 in schools over the past two years.
“What you’ve done for all of us, what you have done for me and my family, despite the abuses you have suffered, is nothing short of heroic. You are all heroes in my book,” he said.
Kunbi Rudnick said she has two daughters in North Penn schools, and replied to those comments who included verses from the Bible in their remarks.
“For the rest of you, who keep quoting the Bible like you’re the only Christians in the room: Matthew 25-40, ‘Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, thy shall do unto me.’ You should go read those five verses, between 40 and 45, and go back to your Lord, which is the same Lord I serve, and explain to him why it is appropriate for you to come up here, be quoting his Bible, and you’re treating other human beings the same way. Shame on you all,” she said.
Residents also took aim at each other during the public comments: Donna Ross of Montgomery Township thanked the board for their mask and COVID decisions, and “for ignoring fake outrage, like those of people in the audience like “moms for Liberty,’ a group of paid agitators supported by billionaires, and the Koch brothers.”
Those comments drew shouts of protest from that group, and a direct response from Crystal Sackel of Lansdale: “There was an individual who came up here and said that ‘Moms for Liberty’ were paid, and God, I wish we were paid, but unfortunately no, we’re just concerned moms.”
“Unfortunately, a lot of people have been hearing on the TV, the radio, at the grocery store, the intercom, we are constantly being indoctrinated with propaganda, on just one side. And last I checked, that’s not what America is about,” she said.
Board members did not respond directly to the resident comments, beyond asking the commenters to remain civil and notifications that their allotted time had expired. After the comments ended, board member Christian Fusco asked assistant superintendent Todd Bauer to address the allegations about the book at Oak Park.
“I did look into it, and I will say that I was equally surprised as everyone else in the room by what was read by Mrs. Flannery. My understanding is that the librarian did read that book, it is no longer on the shelves, it has never been signed out, and while I do believe it was purchased with the best of intentions, the librarian did deem that that book was inappropriate,” Bauer said.
Several audience members then began shouting at the board that they were out of order, then walked out of the meeting as board President Tina Stoll called for district security staff to ensure they left.
In response to questions sent by The Reporter after the meeting, district spokeswoman Christine Liberaski said Monday that “All Boys Aren’t Blue” was in the Oak Park library for five months during the 2020-21 schoolyear, but was never checked out by a student.
“Through investigation of the matter, it was found that the book was ordered after being researched and recommended as reading material helpful for students struggling with identity. After review of the book in August, it was removed from circulation (not last week as incorrectly reported) at the elementary school due to it not being developmentally appropriate for that age group. It was never read by the librarian to students,” she said.
Regarding the other books mentioned by parents, “Gender Queer” “was ordered for the North Penn High School Library but was never put into circulation and thus never checked out,” and “Lawn Boy” “was at Penndale Middle school and is not in circulation,” she said, adding the following statement:
“Until a recent change in policy, approval beyond the building level was not needed for purchasing library books. Books have always been chosen to compliment the school curriculum and support the needs of the individual school, using recommendations to librarians and research to guide the selection. The policy change will improve consistency throughout our schools and give extra support to the decision making process.
“Last week it came to our attention that books were ordered for some of our schools’ libraries that contain material not appropriate for children and have upset some of our families. In some cases, but not all, these books were available to students. NPSD apologizes for the range of emotions that this situation has caused and want to assure the community that we are taking the necessary steps to address everyone’s concerns.
“Controversy surrounding the subject matter and language used in books found in public libraries is not new, nor is it isolated to our community. The discussions are always challenging as people have varying opinions about what is acceptable and appropriate, especially in this ever-changing society. Reading and access to books is extremely important to the North Penn School District and this community, and students are encouraged to take advantage of NPSD’s 18 libraries.”
North Penn’s school board next meets at 7 p.m. on Nov. 9 at the district Educational Services Center, 401 E. Hancock St. For more information visit www.NPenn.org.

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