Backlash, support aimed at Loudoun Co. schools’ diverse books program

The diverse library program in Virginia’s Loudoun County Public Schools is under fire from some parents who believe material in some of the program’s books isn’t appropriate for their kids.

“The excerpts from these books are so explicit that they would garner an ‘R’ rating or an ‘X’ rating,” said Larry Ward, of the conservative Constitutional Rights PAC, based in McLean, Virginia. “They’re not only sexually explicit, but include scenes of rape and pedophilia.”

Books in the Diverse Classroom Libraries program aren’t part of the core curriculum and aren’t mandatory reading. The books included in the program cover a range of topics, including being a young person of color, substance abuse, immigration and LGBTQ issues.

Wayde Byard, a Loudoun County Public Schools spokesman, said in an email that the school system “purchased collections of books representing diverse themes, authors and viewpoints to expand the selection of voluntary reading materials available to students.”

“Like many young adult titles, some books address contemporary subjects facing students with authentic and direct language,” Byard said.

Supporters of the program said it includes award-winning novels that reflect real-world situations.

But Ward, who has two children in Loudoun County schools, wants books with explicit material pulled. He believes having the books in schools has nothing to do with respecting diversity, saying, “They’re putting these books in to indoctrinate our kids into this, quite frankly, this depraved lifestyle.”

Parents and guardians can request a book be reconsidered for use by turning in a form to the school principal, or filing one out online.

“LCPS will consider each request thoughtfully and may reconsider which libraries and classrooms have the various books,” Byard said.

The school system’s Department of Instruction is reviewing 10 titles on the high school diverse library list that have been challenged at the school level:

The program currently is in place for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and from ninth through 12th grade, but no program books will be purchased for middle schools until the program has been reviewed and revised by the school board.

At a school board meeting held Oct. 22, about 30 people spent nearly an hour and a half testifying on both sides of the issue. You can watch that school board meeting here.

Loudoun County Public Schools responds to a list of frequently asked questions about the program on its website.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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