Guest Opinion: Newspaper's Central Bucks library editorial misses the mark

·4 min read

The Intelligencer/Bucks County Courier Times Editorial Board, if it actually believes in the First Amendment, should have declared its strong opposition to Central Bucks School District’s library/censorship policy in an editorial before it was voted on and ultimately passed by the majority members of the school board.

Unsurprisingly, that didn’t happen.

Instead, readers were given what amounts to putting lipstick on a pig with its too little, too late, and too flawed editorial (“How Central Bucks School Board can make library policy work” Aug. 7).

The first major problem is that it takes the politics out of what is a very political situation.

This isn’t surprising given the newspaper’s track record of coddling the local GOP and turning a blind eye to its extremism. And let’s be clear, this is not the editorial board staying above the fray, it is the board obscuring it.

You’d have to be living under a rock to not know that the campaign to ban books — and it is a national, coordinated, and well-funded campaign — is a Republican political crusade. A campaign in which the Central Bucks school board is a ready and enthusiastic participant, although you wouldn’t know it from reading the editorial.

On the one hand, the editorial states, “Those who don’t like the decision can — and should — go to their calendars and circle Nov. 7, 2023 — the date of the next school board general election.”

Cyril Mychalejko is a teacher and freelance writer from Bucks County.
Cyril Mychalejko is a teacher and freelance writer from Bucks County.

On the other hand, it keeps voters in the dark about who is responsible. I’ll go ahead and inform you. These are the far-right Republican board members who voted for the book banning policy: Dana Hunter, Sharon Collopy, Jim Pepper, Leigh Vlasblom, Lisa Sciscio, and Debra Cannon.

Three of these school board members, Pepper, Sciscio, and Cannon, were proudly endorsed by the Proud American Patriots Network, the local Three Percent militia behind the Woke PA book banning website from which a few pro-censorship parents have taken their cues. Furthermore, Sciscio and Cannon are also part of Moms for Liberty.

This context matters. And by not informing, or reminding readers of it, the newspapers are doing them a disservice.

It also taints the rest of the editorial.

The policy is not needed, something apparently lost on the editorial board. Parents already have the ability to opt their kids out from having access to certain books without creating a new policy that makes the decision for other parents and kids. Librarians are also already employed in the libraries to make decisions about what books are needed and useful and which are age appropriate for different schools.

The newspaper’s calls for transparency do nothing to stop this crusading right-wing school board majority that won’t even admit who wrote the policy, nor does it serve the public, which already knows what books, or what types of books, are being targeted. Creating a list of “untouchable” classics is also a half measure that discriminates against more modern literature that provides greater representation to traditionally marginalized students. Calls for an “apolitical” review committee appointed by a superintendent who is not an independent actor in this, and who can not be trusted to take a neutral position, is a fool’s errand. His co-authored OpEd with Hunter, and the fictions it contained, are a testament to this.

One thing Superintendent Abram Lucabaugh wrote in his oped with Hunter which the Courier Times forgot to fact check was, “Some have misinterpreted that the new policy has been crafted to remove books from libraries…In fact, the policy is about creating processes for acquiring new books and for giving parents an avenue to challenge a book they would prefer their child/ren not read.”

Not true.

If a book is successfully challenged it is either removed from a purchase list or removed from the shelves and it is never coming back (unless the policy is changed).

Here’s what the policy states:

“Furthermore, material removed pursuant to the challenge process will not be returned to the library without meeting the criteria for selection as outlined in this policy.”

The policy as approved currently reads that the book would have to be rewritten, edited, or have passages or pages removed in order to return.

The policy also states, and which the editorial board neglected to flag, that “non-fiction resources should incorporate accurate and authentic factual content.” This is an Orwellian slippery slope, especially given the ideological and political extremism of those involved.

The newspaper's editorial board may have had the best of intentions when writing its editorial, but what it ends up doing is defending the indefensible and providing cover for other school districts, like Pennridge, to do the same.

Cyril Mychalejko is the editor of the Bucks County Beacon, where a longer version of this column was originally published.

This article originally appeared on The Intelligencer: Guest Opinion: Central Bucks library editorial misses the mark