Virginia Beach schools to remove some library books, keep others after complaints

Kaitlin McKeown/The Virginian-Pilot/TNS
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Virginia Beach Public Schools will remove some titles from library shelves after citizens complained that they were inappropriate for children. Other titles will remain after committee review.

“Lucky” by Alice Sebold and “Triangles” by Ellen Hopkins will be taken out. “The Haters” by Jesse Andrews and “Tilt” by Ellen Hopkins will stay, as recommended by review committees.

Becky Hay, a Virginia Beach parent, submitted requests for reconsideration for “Lucky,” “Triangles” and “The Haters” in May, outlining what she called sexually explicit content and violence. Her request for “Triangles” described the book as having “highly descriptive sexual passages related to same-sex attraction, sadomasochism and extramarital affairs, which is highly inappropriate for many if not most teens.”

She received a letter from Chief Academic Officer Kipp Rogers in July that the titles had been reviewed by a committee. According to Rogers’ letter, “Lucky” and “Triangles” were determined to be “no longer age-appropriate.” The books will be removed from all libraries.

Rogers highlighted key points made by the review committee that were used to support keeping “The Haters” as an “optional choice read for students in high school libraries.” The committee noted that the book is a coming-of-age story and “appeals to teenage boys” because of the point of view.

The committee also pointed to how the characters often reflect on their actions and journeys. As an example, “one character reflects on how badly he was treating himself by using drugs. The drug scene also showed how things can go wrong when using drugs.”

The student on the committee said she thought the book also reflected how students talk in school, according to the letter.

Similarly, a letter sent to another Virginia Beach parent who submitted a request for “Tilt” justified keeping the book. The committee found the book was written in “poetic verse,” which is appealing to struggling readers.

A parent on the committee shared that the book allowed her to have conversations with her child on things happening to the characters and said “it was easier to talk about fictional characters than real teenagers.”

According to the letter, the student on the committed said, “This book doesn’t put a rose-tinted film over the world and it provides a community for students going through tough situations.”

The committee also noted the statistics and resources for those who may need help at the back of the book.

Virginia Beach citizens submitted five requests for reconsideration in May for books they considered “pornographic” and inappropriate for school libraries.

Parents and Virginia Beach citizens have come forward during school board meetings to say that parents should have a say in what kinds of reading material their children are exposed to and have complained about several books they believe to be “pornographic.”

The debate over this issue has been ongoing across Virginia and around the country. In Virginia Beach, the debate over books like “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe and “A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sarah J. Maas has made its way into the Virginia Beach Circuit Court, where the petitioners hope to get the books ruled obscene for children and restrict access to the titles and books like them.

Students First VA, a Virginia Beach political action committee with which school board member Victoria Manning is connected, shared Rogers’ letters on social media and stated the group will continue to fight “porn peddling” in schools. Comments on the posts have expressed dissatisfaction with the decision to keep “The Haters” and “Tilt.”

A request for reconsideration for “Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins was submitted in May around the same time as these four books. As of Thursday, there had not been a decision as to whether the book will remain in libraries.

Kelsey Kendall, kelsey.kendall@virginiamedia.com