Getting Answers: proposed book banning policy in Ludlow Public Schools

A concerned parent reached out to us regarding a proposed policy in Ludlow Public Schools that would dictate which books are approved to be kept in libraries.
Updated: May. 24, 2023 at 4:55 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Western Mass News is getting answers after a concerned parent reached out to our newsroom regarding a proposed policy in Ludlow Public Schools that would dictate how and which books are approved to be kept in school libraries. The proposal comes after a Florida school has removed President Joe Biden’s inaugural poem from a library’s elementary section.

Ludlow Public Schools is in the spotlight after a large crowd attended a school committee meeting on Tuesday night. Many community members speaking out on a proposed policy, which would dictate how and which books are approved to be in Ludlow Public School libraries.

“For the purity and for the health of children, please remove all obscene books from all the schools and adopt the policy the proposed policy. I would greatly appreciate it,” said one Ludlow resident.

Public comment went on for almost two hours Tuesday with some speakers in support of the proposed policy, but many in opposition.

“The problem is the internet, not books. According to a recent study by Common Sense, a nonprofit media company focused on children and families, the majority of children are exposed to online pornography by age 12. In fact, research shows that number may be as high as 65 percent of all children,” said Ludlow English teacher Michelle D’Amore.

One parent called out one of the books she said is on the bookshelves of Ludlow schools that she has an issue with.

“I’m going to read this book to you guys. It’s called ‘Looking for Alaska.’ I read it back in April. I’m going to read it again. If there’s kids in here, I’m sorry. You might want to block their ears, but this is what’s in our school for sixth, seventh, and eighth graders,” one parent explained.

She then proceeded to read a passage from that book

“Laura unbuttoned my pants and pulled my boxers down a little,” the parent read.

This all stems from parents’ concerns over the past few years regarding what they call pornographic images and language in some of the school books. Western Mass News obtained a copy of the proposed process. It detailed that a district level library supervisor of each school will give a recommended list of books to the school superintendent. After the superintendent’s approval, that list will be provided to the school committee and posted publicly for 30 days, which will allow parents guardians and employees to submit written comments on the recommended list. The superintendent will then make a final list recommendation, consider the public comments, and bring it to the school committee. The committee may accept or reject the list in whole or in part.

The policy also lists restrictions for books including books that have visual or written depictions of sexual acts or nude intimate parts.

Ludlow School Committee Member Joao Dias confirmed he proposed the policy, which is derived from a Pennsylvania school’s policy, which has gained national attention. He addressed parents’ concerns on Tuesday.

“I know people like to bring up book banning a lot, but I know for a fact that there’s only ‘x’ amount of square feet in a given library and the decision should be made to have the best materials in those libraries and that’s what this is about,” Dias said.