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Lancaster County school district library policies regarding sexually explicit content in schools are now in effect

Hempfield School Board President Dylan Bard and District Superintendent Mike Bromirski.
Gabriela Martinez
Hempfield School Board President Dylan Bard and District Superintendent Mike Bromirski.

A Lancaster County school district is updating its library selection policy in a way that could limit student access to books deemed too sexually explicit.

Hempfield School District board members voted 7-2 to adopt revisions to Policy 109, which guides the selection of library materials. There was no discussion before the policy was approved.

The policy now defines sexually explicit content as that which is not appropriate for school-age children. Therefore that material will not be available to students in the schools, the policy states.

Sexually explicit material/content, according to 109, is “content/material that encourages an excessive interest in sexual matters and graphically describes/illustrates sexual behavior/acts of any kind.”

There is also new language stating material that meets state and/or federal legal definitions for pornography and obscenities will not be included in school library collections.

The board also voted to implement Policy 108.1, which establishes guidelines for resource materials that teachers use to supplement lessons.

There are no immediate plans to remove specific books, LNP reported. Moreover, it is unclear at this point how the policy will be implemented.

The board also approved a new solicitor. Starting July 1st, Attorney David Walker with Stock and Leader will work with the administration to craft regulations that will guide how the policy is implemented.

Kristin Douglas, a recently retired high school librarian at Hempfield, said there are no sexually explicit materials in the school libraries, so she sees no need for the changes. She said school librarians are trained to vet and select books according to each age and grade level.

“I don’t know if it’s to appease people that we don’t have sexually explicit material in the library. I’m not sure why that term had to be put in there. Our policy that we had before worked well, but because of the climate, I guess this is where we are,” Douglas said.

In the 16 years she worked in the district, she said, she and her colleagues never had a book challenged at the high school.

When there’s a challenge, she said, a parent should contact the principal and say they have concerns. After that a step-by step process ensues, which involves members of an appointed committee reviewing the challenged book as a whole.

A parent can also contact a librarian and ask them to flag a book they don’t want their child to read.

“It can be really, any way the parent wants it, ” Douglas said. “If they want to approve a book before a child picks it out, we could do that, whatever we can do to help the parents so they can be in charge of what their child has available to them.

Hempfield District Superintendent Mike Bromirski said the administrative regulations that will inform how the board policy is implemented will follow the policy’s definitions of age/grade appropriate and sexually explicit content/materials.

For Maguire Younes, Hempfield resident and a Hempfield high schooler who graduated in May, it is not clear how the policy will be implemented, given that definitions of what is sexually explicit or not age-appropriate vary from person to person. Younes, who served as president of the student council when he was in school, had several conversations with different school board members and found they had differing opinions on how the policy would be implemented and whether or not books should be removed.

“I kept asking where is your line. You do not have a line set. It is up to interpretation,” Younes said. “Everyone has different personal lines and different beliefs on where that line should be, and that’s the concerning thing in this policy.”