NOTE: This article includes a description of a sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — In response to the Laramie County School District 1 Board of Trustees seeing visits last month from concerned parents regarding material in its libraries that they found to be inappropriate, a contingent of parents and students from the other side of the argument made their voices heard during Monday’s board meeting.
That is, by encouraging the district to keep its book policy the way that it is now.
Nearly every public commenter given the chance to speak at Storey Gym on Monday said they were in favor of the district’s current book selection process — essentially an opt-out system, as opposed to the opt-in option some parents have argued for in prior meetings — and encouraged the board to stand defiant in front of what one speaker called a “pursuit of political gains.”
A district work session regarding the book selection process is currently scheduled for 6 to 7 p.m. Sept. 14, and the public is invited to attend. That meeting will likely lay the groundwork for any significant changes coming to the current policy — if there are any to come at all.
But in the leadup to the conversations ahead, both sides of the aisle have clearly made their frustrations and worries known.
“Every family in this district already enjoys full control over what book their student has access to,” speaker Jen Solis said. “To accommodate the needs of parents wishing to limit or restrict access, there is a system to do so. … Throwing the system out in favor of an opt-in system makes little sense to me. Requiring thousands of parents to fill out paperwork to appease the whims of dozens of parents who don’t like certain books is fiscally reckless.”
Several commenters, including district parents and current and former students, noted that the literary material they found in their school library helped them get through childhood trauma, in some cases even regarding the books they found as lifesaving.
Speaker Marcie Kindred, who stated that she was a parent of four boys in the district, recalled at the meeting an instance in which she was raped at 14. As she dealt with the trauma of being a survivor, Kindred said she found comfort in books and became a “voracious reader” in the meantime — and that the material within some of the passages she read helped her get through the anguish.
The power that books possess as a healing tool makes for more than enough reason to keep the literature in question around in local schools, some argued Monday. And for those who wish to opt their children out of reading those books in question, several speakers noted that the current district policy enables them to do so.
“Some of the books that folks would like to remove or put barriers to access quite literally saved my life,” Kindred said. “They saved my life because they talked about the things we’d like to protect our children from. They came with me into the darkness. They showed me that bad things happen to good people and that it wasn’t my fault. They made me feel less alone.
“The hardest lesson I’ve had to learn as a parent myself is that most of the time, our job is not to protect our children from the bad things in life. We’re not here to shield them from friend trouble or broken hearts, and sometimes we are unable to protect them from the darkest parts of humanity. We’re here to walk beside them. … Books can lend their wisdom and comfort when we can’t be there to walk with them.”