By Seth Hancock Wyoming News
Several parents addressed the Board of Education in the Natrona County School District to share concerns with some of the books in school libraries on Monday, Dec. 13.
In total, 10 citizens spoke during public comments with several reading excerpts from books
found in Natrona County Schools.
Some of the books were on underage prostitution with excerpts like “tight pussies cost a pretty penny” and “accepting foreign objects as long as dudes are willing to pay the going rate.” Another book, “Gender Queer,” provided a manual for kids to come out of the closet to family and friends.
“That’s disgusting, 11-year-olds have access to this. And that’s pretty disgusting,” said mother Sandy Norman.
Sarah Bieber, also a mother, said these books were found in school libraries and classrooms from “elementary though high school.”
Bieber ultimately said the board is responsible for these books being in schools.
“These things may not come from you, but they do come to you,” Bieber said. “You have
repeatedly taken federal money in place of our children’s freedom and safety. You’ve ignored parents and treated them as adversaries. We trusted you to be the gatekeepers, the safety monitors.
We trusted you to watch, listen and investigate to help us protect our young and
impressionable children, and this is what we got for our trust. We no longer trust you, we no
longer have faith that you will work with us in educating our children.”
Dan Sabrosky, a father, challenged the board to openly and honestly discuss these concerns and said: “This may not be the last you hear, and the words will get more intense.”
After parents addressed concerns with the materials and the district accepting federal funding, which they say is how these vulgar books have come into the schools, some board members decried that the district doesn’t spend enough taxpayer dollars while one compared the parents to Hitler and book burning.
However, mother Jeanette Ward noted “the previous speakers are not into banning books” and questioned if other books, like the Holy Bible, are in the schools. She listed off several other books by conservative authors or libertarian economists, like F. A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom.
“I don’t think that we are into banning books, but it would be nice if these books were present,” Ward said.
During board member comments, Debbie McCullar said: “I do not believe in censorship. We do, in the district, have a policy for banning books, and if there are books on our shelves that you are aware of we can go through that process and it can be looked at.”
McCullar added: “I look back at history and Hitler and burning books… we are being censored daily, and I don’t believe that it’s really a healthy thing for our citizenry. If we want to censor a book, please go through the process that’s laid out in our policy.”
What should be noted is that while board members criticized parents and said there’s a process, they did not explain how the process works nor said how much input parents have in the process.
Rita Walsh, the board’s clerk, agreed the passages read “were offensive,” but said she can’t
determine if a book should be removed based on a passage. She also said she takes “a lot of value in what (McCullar) has to say.”
Board member Thomas Myler said there’s a process and said “that’s about as much opinion on it I can present.”
Clark Jensen, the board’s vice chair, accused speakers of not adhering to Christian principles by addressing their concerns.
“Many of your concerns are valid, but your vitriolic approach is not helping your cause,” Jensen said. “There’s a better way to do it. Most of you claim to be Christians, which I claim to be as well. Act Christlike as you approach the board. It will go farther then to approach us with anger and hatred.”
Board members Kianna Smith and Dana Howie both said they agreed with McCullar with no
mention of the vitriolic Hitler comparison levied by her.
Dave Applegate, the board’s treasurer, said he “certainly hopes” the Bible is in schools as well as some of the other books mentioned by Ward, but admitted he didn’t know what’s in the schools.
He also did not believe in self reliance stating the district needs the federal and state tax dollars.
Applegate called it a “complicated budget,” and “I think a lot of people think it’s too much
money.” But he said if the district didn’t get their hands on the tax dollars of those who don’t
even use their schools, i.e. federal funds, he said the district would have to reduce services or increase taxes.
Superintendent Mike Jennings did say “trustees would not be aware of those excerpts,” but
agreed “they were offensive.” He told parents to bring the books to his attention so the district can use it’s policy to determine if they should be removed.