‘Banned Books’ Exhibit Sparks New Debate at TEAM Meeting


Critics of the recent ‘Banned Books Week’ exhibit at Staples High School – identified only as ‘WPMom3’, left, and ‘Katerina’ – called the sexual content and other information in the books completely inappropriate for students from high school when they spoke at TEAM The Westport Reunion on Thursday. / Screenshots by John Schwing

By John Schwing

WESTPORT — Debate on “Banned Books Week”, Chapter II.

The recent exposure at the Staples High School library of the 10 books, which the American Library Association said were the most banned or challenged in 2021, sparked a debate at another city council on Thursday morning.

The display, which sparked controversy at Monday’s Board of Education meeting, drew positive and critical comments at the monthly meeting of TEAM Westport, the town’s multicultural advocacy group.

At the school board meeting earlier in the week, the posting was harshly criticized by six people during the public comment segment, calling the books inappropriate for high school students, sexually explicit and pornographic, as well as the promoting pedophilia. and Marxism.

Their comments followed a heated row that erupted among school board members over whether complaints about the books could be discussed publicly at Monday’s meeting or should be referred to the internal review process. Board complaints. The heated arguments forced school board president Lee Goldstein to call a break to calm things down.

TEAM Westport members Andy Frankel, left, and Patra Kanchanagom spoke about the banned books controversy on Thursday. Frankel said there should be a public discussion about where to draw the line on what is appropriate for school materials. Kanchanagom said the LGBTQ community would feel attacked by reviews focusing solely on LGBTQ-themed books for the first time in 15 years since Staples hosted the exhibits.

Goldstein, who joined the TEAM meeting on Thursday, addressed the book posting controversy, telling more than 40 people who joined the Zoom session that the 10 books on the ALA list were already included in the list. Staples Library Inventory.

Observing that “things got a little heated” at Monday’s meeting, Goldstein acknowledged that some of the books contain “mature” and “sexually explicit” content.

Complaints about the posting of “banned books,” Goldstein said, would be dealt with internally by the school district‘s “detailed” policies on selecting school supplies, as well as handling complaints about those selections. That was the decision taken by the Democratic majority on the council on Monday, although it acknowledged that several council members – three Republicans – had been canceled in a bid to discuss the issue publicly.

The complaints about this year’s exhibit, Goldstein noted, are the first in Staples Library’s 15 years of posting the ALA’s annual list of “banned” books.

Andy Frankel, a new member of TEAM Westport, said there was “a public discussion to be had” about where to draw a line on what is appropriate regarding textbooks with sexually explicit content and detailed descriptions of how to use sex apps.

He also expressed disappointment with the vitriol of comments about the book controversy posted on social media platforms, and suggested that TEAM could serve as a resource for more civil discourse on divisive issues.

Danielle Dobin, chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, urged everyone to let the school district’s complaint resolution policies play out. A similar policy at Westport Library, she noted, recently resulted in the restoration of a controversial book to the library’s collection.

Selectwoman Candice Savin, former chair of the board of education, said she was disappointed some board members tried to circumvent regulations by pushing for a public debate on the issue on Monday, and praised Goldstein for the way which she handled the controversy.

Board of Education member Dorie Hordon, who backed the effort to publicly discuss the issue on Monday, accepted that the effort was overruled, but added that it now provides an opportunity to see how the complaints review process is working.

TEAM member Joan Gillman said she is concerned that members of the Board of Education do not fully understand their responsibility for the “risk” posed to school district employees when they are targeted by the most vulnerable people. accusing him of caring for children and teaching pornography – as several speakers did during Monday’s meeting.

Patra Kanchanagom, another TEAM member, said local members of the LGBTQ community would feel “attacked” by the controversy, as none of the previous 14 annual “Banned Books” postings had prompted any complaints. This year, she noted, critics had aimed their fire at books with LGBTQ themes.

Two members of the public also weighed in on the controversy, although neither of the women gave their full names or were asked to identify themselves.

A speaker identifying herself as ‘Katerina’ said she had three children attending public schools in Westport and was concerned that upon entering Staples they would be exposed to ‘explicit sexual’ images and details of how whose children can have sex with adults.

The books on display, she says, “are not appropriate at all.”

The woman also got emotional as she spoke, saying critics of the ‘Banned Books’ exhibit were branded ‘fascist’ on social media. It’s particularly offensive to her because she’s the descendant of a grandfather who fought the Nazis, she said.

Another woman, identified only as “WPMom3”, said it seemed to her that no one advocating the banned books had actually read them.

The books, one of which she says is used in a health class at Staples, have both sexually explicit content and advice on how to use sex apps, which encourages ‘dangerous’ behavior , she said.

“I don’t know how anyone can support that,” the woman said.

John Schwing, Consulting Editor of the Westport Journal, has held editorial and editorial positions in Southwestern Connecticut media for four decades. Know more about us here.

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