While Virginia Beach Public Schools is removing several books from school libraries after objections over sexual content from some parents, Prince William County Public Schools has thus far declined to do the same with any books over parental concerns.
But the local school system is seeing an increase in challenges to library books, something that comes as conservative parents are promising to maintain the new scrutiny on school libraries.
The school system fielded six challenges to library books over the past school year, according to data obtained by InsideNoVa using a Freedom of Information Act request.
Lois Lowry’s “The Giver,” a Newbery Medal winner, was challenged for “infanticide and euthanasia.” Other books challenged were “Carlos Gomez Freestyles” by Chuck Gonzalez, “Cultivating Strong Girls” by Nancy Evans, “Julián is a Mermaid” by Jessica Love, “The Conscious Parent’s Guide to Gender Identity” by Darlene Tando, and “What Riley Wore” by Elana K. Arnold and Linda Davick. None has been removed from local schools’ libraries.
According to a school system spokesperson, new books are added to the library from recommendations “based on student input, staff input, community input, and professional journal lists of recommended text.” The recommendations are then vetted by professional librarians and presented to “supervising administrators for feedback and approval prior to purchase by the school bookkeeper.”
When a library book is challenged, it goes to a committee that reviews the material and makes a ruling. In Virginia Beach, committees ruled that two books: Alice Sebold’s “Lucky” and Ellen Hopkins’ “Triangles” will no longer be featured in school libraries after they were deemed “to no longer be age appropriate,” according to The Virginian-Pilot.
In Prince William, the simple mention of a same-sex relationship drew uproar from some parents last year, when the librarian at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School read “Prince & Knight” – a book about a prince who falls in love with a knight – during the school’s morning announcements.
After the incident, county Supervisor Yesli Vega (R-Coles) – her party’s nominee for Virginia’s 7th Congressional District seat this fall – said she was “assisting a Prince William resident and dealing privately with local government officials in regards to the availability of books to our children depicting graphic sexual acts inappropriate for young minds.”
The school system said the six challenges last year were more than are received during a typical year.
After a 2021-22 school year that saw increased community organizing along partisan lines toward the school system and the Prince William County School Board, conservative parents in the county are already organizing for the upcoming year. A Prince William chapter of the parents group Moms for Liberty is planning to kick off activities later this month.
Moms for Liberty groups elsewhere, including in Fauquier County, have regularly challenged books in school libraries.
Most of Prince William’s book challenges were sent by Chris Fundeburg, a Nokesville resident who told InsideNoVa that he has children in the school division. Fundeburg has regularly used the School Board’s public comment period to rail against the division’s “trans agenda.” He graphically described the genitalia of some trans people at a School Board meeting in June, prompting dozens in attendance to walk out for the duration of his speech.