McAuliffe doesn’t believe parents should have a say in such matters
Stacy Langton is incensed. She stood at the podium during the September 23 school board meeting to testify about two books in her child’s school library, when she was interrupted by School Board Chair Stella Pekarsky.
Those books she spoke about that night contain explicit pornographic content. In addition to the graphic language in the books, there are also illustrations including fellatio, sex toys, masturbation and nudity.
As Pekarsky interrupted Langton, stopping her from finishing her remarks, Springfield District Member Laura Jane Cohen claimed there were children in the audience. Other audience in attendance have confirmed this was not true. Even if they had been watching over the streaming platform, any younger students would have likely been in bed at that time since school board meetings begin at 7 p.m. and Langton’s testimony was more than an hour into the meeting. Many members of the community have since questioned how it’s apparently acceptable for the book to be in school libraries, yet it should not be read aloud when children may be in the audience.
“Do not interrupt my time,” Langton emphatically told the board. “I will stand here until my time is restored and my time is finished.” According to school board policy, a community member will receive two minutes of uninterrupted time when they are chosen to speak before the board. Before Langton’s time was up, Pekarsky spoke over her and tried to introduce the next speaker.
“This is not the reception you should be getting when this is the topic,” Langton said in an interview. She said a display in the Fairfax High School library was large. “There were many books. I just got a quick glance at the display, I would bet there’s a high probability there are other pornographic books in the library as well.”
Even after Pekarsky cut her microphone, Langton began reading from Virginia Code 18.2-376, which she said the school board was violating. “It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly to … circulate … any notice or advertisement of any obscene item …” she read. Amid jeers from the audience against the board, several members of the board immediately got up and left the dais for a 5-minute recess. As the board members filed out, there were calls from the audience for the school board members to be arrested.
Providence District School Board Member Karl Frisch, a gay man who has no children, took the recess time to post to Twitter, “It’s not every week the School Board receives two exorcisms during public comment. To be clear, nothing will disrupt our Board’s commitment to LGBTQIA+ students, families and staff. Nothing.” Frisch’s tweet drew a lot of angry responses, many people calling him out for supporting pedophilia. “Promoting pedophilia in school library books has nothing to do with LGBTQIA+ students, families and staff,” responded a Twitter user named Patrick.
A group of participants recited prayers for “protection” that are not prayers for “exorcisms,” say Catholic experts, and in addition lay Catholics don’t believe they can do “exorcisms,” as Frisch alleged. The prayers recited were the Litany to the Holy Spirit and the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. Last year, Frisch participated in a panel discussing his school board victory as an “agnostic” over “religious extremists” in Virginia.
This type of controversy is not new to county schools. In 2016, after an AP English class was required to read “Beloved” by Tony Morrison, the Virginia General Assembly attempted to pass HB 516, which would require the Board of Education to write a policy on explicit instructional material requiring parents be notified and have an opportunity to review the material and find an alternative if the parent did not approve.
That bill passed with bipartisan support only to have then Governor Terry McAuliffe veto it. The House voted to override McAuliffe’s veto, but was one vote shy of required number. In March 2017 McAuliffe vetoed HB 2191 which would have required schools to notify parents if their child is enrolled in a course in which the materials or related academic activities include sexually explicit content or the potential for it.
In fact, in the gubernatorial debate with opponent Glenn Youngkin earlier this week, McAuliffe attempted to defend his stance. “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decisions,” he said. “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
McAuliffe has apparently forgotten about Virginia Code 1-240.1 which addresses the rights of parents. It reads, “A parent has a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of the parent’s child.” Parents are taxpayers and it is their right to have a say-so in their children’s education.
According to a 2013 Washington Post article, only one of McAuliffe’s children went to a public high school – Langley High School. His other children attended Potomac School, a private school in McLean and Gonzaga College High School, a Catholic college prep school in Washington, D.C.
Langton said the characterization that she’s unhappy because there is gay pornography in our children’s schools is not factually correct. “This is pornography full stop. Straight up,” she said. “It doesn’t matter at all to me what the gender is of the people depicted engaging in the pornography. It doesn’t matter to me at all what the sexual orientation is of the people engaging in the pornography. If this pornography had been a normal heterosexual situation – a man and a woman engaging in it or whatever, I would have said exactly every single word the same way I said it at that meeting. This is about the decency of the school environment that our children go to school in.”
The books in question are “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison and “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe. They were available in many high school libraries and some middle school libraries across the county. A Fairfax County Public Schools spokesman explained that librarians must follow selection criteria found in Instructional Services Regulation 3013.2 dated August 2018. The circulation of these two books has been suspended while a committee reviews and makes a recommendation on the text, they said. The school board could not be reached for further comment.