The Prairie Rose School Division (PRSD) is rejecting calls to ban some books from school shelves and any notion there is pornography being made available to any students who attend its schools.
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“Such claims are without foundation, hurtful, and harmful,” the PRSD board of trustees said in a statement released Monday evening after trustees in the southern Manitoba school division denied a request that some books containing topics of sexuality, as well as sexual and gender identity be removed from classrooms and libraries in the division.
During a previous board meeting held in Carman on June 19, Raelyn Fox, who said she is a mother to children attending PRSD schools, asked the division to start closely monitoring what books are being made available in schools, adding that she was “shocked and disgusted” by what is available at schools, because of “graphic sexual” content.
“You and the staff hold a legal position of trust and power in relation to the students and minors that attend your school,” Fox said during the June 19 meeting. “Tonight I will signal that there has been an abuse and a breach of power by your staff, and a betrayal of parents and public trust.”
On Monday, the PRSD board held a special meeting to discuss whether or not to censor or ban some books, as requested by Fox but said after the meeting they would be making no changes to what books are available.
“The Prairie Rose School Division Board of Trustees rejects the request for books to be banned from the school libraries,” the board wrote in their Monday statement.
The board also said they do not agree with some who are now saying there is “pornography” in some PRSD schools.
“Prairie Rose School Division Board of Trustees rejects the premise that any school library within Prairie Rose School Division contains pornography, and rejects all claims of contravention of Criminal Codes, Acts or Statutes,” the board said.
“All school libraries within Prairie Rose School Division have age-appropriate texts that are only available to the age group or maturity level for which they are appropriate. Books containing material appropriate for mature students are kept segregated and, where necessary, at secured locations.”
The board said they will continue to rely on teachers, librarians and other educators to decide what books should be available, and to what age groups.
“The Prairie Rose School Division Board of Trustees has full confidence in the professional judgment of our educators and librarians regarding access to material based on their knowledge of not only content but also of the students they teach,” the board said.
The board said they will also continue to reject calls to ban books that touch on LGBTQ issues and issues of sexual and gender identity, as they said a move like that would be harmful to students.
“Every learner is provided the opportunity to reach their full potential in a safe, inclusive, educational environment, where they are invited, valued, supported, and celebrated,” the board said.
“This includes raising awareness and learning, as well as supporting and protecting everyone, including transgender and gender diverse people.”
Concerns about books available to children, and requests to ban books have been a growing issue in parts of Manitoba recently. In May, the Brandon School Division (BSD) rejected a similar proposal to ban some books from schools that deal with issues of sexual and gender identity and to form a committee to decide what books can and cannot be available in schools.
In Winkler, a delegation at an April city council meeting asked Winkler city council to stop funding the South Central Regional Library until certain books that touch on issues of sexuality and LGBTQ issues are removed from any areas of the library where they can be viewed or borrowed by children.
Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.