Taking Issue With BOE Chair
To the Editor:
I’m writing to respond to Ms Zukowski’s continuing attempts to reframe her actions during the recent struggle over banning books from the NHS library. (“Doing What Was Best For Students, Community” 7/13/23).
In her letter, Ms Zukowski makes use of the logical fallacy known as “false balance.” She claims repeatedly that there were extremists and political opportunists on both sides of the issue, and that leaving the two books in the library where they had sat unused for years was an “extreme” position.
The facts are quite different.
This entire issue was instigated by conservative political opportunists and extremists. The challenges were brought by a small cadre of conservatives, some of whom hold political positions in Newtown. The challenges closely followed the playbook of “Moms for Liberty,” an anti-LGBT political organization from Florida. It is hard to imagine that these two books would have become such a hot-button issue here in Newtown were it not for the nationwide political campaign.
Opposition to censorship of library content is not an extreme position.
It’s very troubling that Ms Zukowski continues to repeat the claim that Flamer includes “sexually explicit pictures.” Merriam-Webster defines the term “explicit” as “fully revealed or expressed without vagueness, implication, or ambiguity.” By this definition, there are no sexually explicit images in Flamer. Ms Zukowski’s claim is factually incorrect and inflammatory, and yet she continues to repeat it.
Ms Zukowski also states that she was simply concerned about finding a way to “better support diverse family values.” However, she voted against accepting the recommendations of the superintendent, the special committee, and the hundreds of students, parents, and educators who supported intellectual freedom and opposed censorship. This, and her continued support for a parental “opt-in” system, show she was placing undue importance on the opinions of a few conservative complainants at the expense of the rest of the community.
It is quite telling that Ms Zukowski was opposed to simply keeping the books in the NHS library while she was part of a 4-3 majority, but she quickly changed her tone and showed a more conciliatory attitude after the resignations of two Republican BOE members.
Newtown deserves better leadership for our Board of Education. We need board members who are more concerned with the quality of the education we provide to our students than they are to pandering to small groups of political operatives, or engaging in unnecessary and destructive culture war issues.
I look forward to the coming election campaigns and I’m hopeful that both sides will engage in substantive discussions of policy and inclusivity. It would be especially helpful if both parties would appear in a public debate this time.