Banned book debate heats up in SWVA

Two sexually explicit books were removed from a Lexington school after parents complained

LEXINGTON, Va. – Between two sides of a very polarized debate stands public school libraries.

In an earlier report, we told you about two sexually explicit books that were removed from a Lexington Middle School following complaints from parents.

But according to former Delegate Tim Anderson - this is about more than just books.

“If I’m allowed to opt my child out of graphic sexual material in the classroom, why am I not allowed to opt them out of that material in libraries?” Anderson said.

Anderson introduced legislation in the General Assembly last session that would require school librarians to catalog books with explicit content.

“If the children need them, then the parents to give consent to let their children have access to them,” he said.

Anderson told 10 News he read seven books questioned by parents out loud on the house floor.

“The graphic material was so intense that the speaker of the house had to eject all of the minors out of the house,” he said.

The campaign to ban certain books in school libraries stretches across the country, but one group is advocating for the freedom to read and create literature of all types.

Kasey Meehan with PEN America said books found in school libraries are there for a reason.

“There are lots of ways that books are selected and identified and brought into schools and most of that, or all of it I should say, is through intentional processes and librarians and educators,” Meehan said.

Meehan said she sees an overwhelming majority of books being banned containing LGBTQ+ themes, or themes of race, and books educating on violence or sexual abuse.

“Students should have the right to see themselves represented in literature. Students should be able to see other identities reflected in literature,” she said.

But Anderson said it should be left up to parents.

“Most parents are probably of the same opinion that I am, that these books are not age-appropriate for children,” Anderson said.

And now local school districts are caught in the middle of a state-wide and national debate on what books are appropriate for students.

About the Author:

Abbie Coleman officially joined the WSLS 10 News team in January 2023.