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EDITORIAL: Public throws cold water on book burning
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EDITORIAL: Public throws cold water on book burning

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Spotslyvania County School Board (copy)

Riverbend High School senior Liam Thompson voices his opinion to the Spotsylvania County School Board. regarding pulling offensive literature from school libraries and the suggestion of burning those books on Monday, Nov. 11, 2021. The meeting was held in the auditorium of Chancellor High School to accommodate the overflow crowd.

Apparently, there will be no literary bonfires in Spotsylvania County anytime soon.

The vast majority of the crowd in the Chancellor High School auditorium Monday night made it clear that they do not want books burned, or even pulled from the shelves due to “explicit” content.

The county made unfortunate headlines on Nov. 8. That’s when the School Board voted unanimously to ban certain books from school libraries. Then, two members of the board doubled down, earning Spotsylvania the kind of national recognition nobody wants.

Courtland District representative Rabih Abuismail, reacting to books that he considered offensive, said, “I think we should throw those books in a fire.” Livingston District representative Kirk Twigg said he’d like “to see the books before we burn them so we can identify within our community that we are eradicating this bad stuff.”

After listening to a packed audience of parents, students, teachers and others at a four-and-a-half hour meeting, the board reversed its decision sometime after midnight and voted 5–2 not to pull the books, let alone burn them.

Good move. It is heartening to see the residents of Spotsylvania take a stand. Would that a couple of elected representatives on the School Board were as protective of free speech as their constituents. Twigg and Abuismail were, not surprisingly, the two “no” votes.

Students spoke about the way books have helped them deal with the minefield that is teenage life. A teacher said the board doesn’t know “who our students really are.” “Too many of [the students],” another teacher added, “are not leading ‘Brady Bunch’ lives.”

Kudos to Spotsylvania residents for showing up for the First Amendment and for not letting School Board members overstep their bounds and assume the role of censors. The board’s code of ethics says, “I will delegate authority for the administration of the schools to the superintendent and establish a process for accountability of administrators.”

Bomb-throwers like Abuismail and Twigg do so much harm. In addition to advocating the kind of heavy-handed actions that made comparisons with Nazi Germany inevitable, they gave the country, and perhaps the world, the misconception that Spotsylvania County is the kind of place where people would go so far as to destroy a book because they decided it wasn’t proper to be read.

And because bad news is a lot sexier than good news, it is highly unlikely that the board’s reversal Monday night will get the kind of nationwide play that the original blathering did.

We know, though, that we are not the kind of community that burns books.

We applaud those good citizens who turned out to show their School Board how decent, thoughtful human beings should behave.

They shouldn’t have had to.

The (Fredericksburg) Free Lance-Star

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