SACS Board candidate organizing ‘book investigators’ to monitor, document titles on campus
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - A woman running for a spot on the Southwest Allen County Schools Board is recruiting “book investigators” to report items that include sexually explicit content and “other harmful materials” at all four Allen County public school systems.
Amanda Tokos is the administrator of the Advisory Book Club of Allen County, which shows more than 150 members in a private Facebook group, as of Friday. The group espouses a mission of “Saving Kids One Book at a Time,” and identifies itself as: A group of concerned citizens in Allen County, Indiana, who believe that school libraries and public libraries should NOT be exempt from disseminating matter or conducting performance harmful materials to minors. We believe that regardless of loophole policies and statutes, some books are not appropriate for minors to read and/or view without parental consent and that some books should not be available in our schools EVER due to the harm that it may cause a child.
“ABC” states that its goal is “to expose harmful books in an effort to educate our community and our legislators, as well as to create evidence in an effort to have them removed from the schools and restricted from minors in public libraries.”
The effort comes at a time of increased activity regarding the regulation of literature at schools. A widely publicized vote by a school district in Tennessee, for example, removed the graphic novel “Maus” -- which focuses on the Holocaust -- from campuses, while a protest in Texas brought educators and parents to the Texas State Capitol last weekend to rally against what they consider to be heavy-handed censorship.
ABC expresses specific concerns that “sexually explicit of other harmful materials” are finding their way to children through schools. In an interview with ABC21 on Friday, Tokos said she wants to see the establishment of parental advisory boards.
“My goal here is to not allow our children to be sexually groomed and for childhood sex to be normalized,” she said. “I have heard of some books where some of the description in the books has been very heinous -- like a rape. I don’t know that that kind of content is appropriate for a middle schooler to read.”
When asked whether the role of managing content was better suited to the librarian, Tokos answered, “you’re assuming that every librarian represents the best interests on all of the parents and the children.”
The Indiana Library Federation recently published a position statement titled “Freedom to Read in Defense of Democracy,” which notes the “recent surge in book challenges and removals in Indiana and throughout the country.” ILF says it is “the responsibility of qualified, trained library professionals” to manage collections, displays and programs so they reflect the diverse experiences of those they serve, and that “libraries and school districts have mechanisms in place to guide collection and curriculum decisions and for the public to formally request reconsideration of library materials.”
ABC21 also spoke with Jonathan Friedman from PEN America, a free-speech advocacy organization.
“We are living through a nationally coordinated effort to challenge books in schools, whether those are books used for curriculum in classrooms or books available in school libraries,” he said. “This is the fundamental challenge for public schools, which is that they serve pluralistic communities, where people live together and might disagree about this question.
“Who should the public library serve? Who should the public schools serve? They have to find a way to balance these concerns of different parents and serve them all, and that doesn’t mean removing the books or banning the books for everybody; it means accommodating and coming up with other kinds of solutions to this challenge.”
Allen County public school systems contacted by ABC21 declined to comment for this report.
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