If The BOE Votes To Ban, Vote Them Out
To the Editor:
The people of Newtown have spoken — eloquently, articulately, and with force. It was crystal clear at the May 2 meeting of the Newtown Board of Education (BOE) that Newtown residents overwhelmingly do not support the banning of the books Blankets and Flamer from the Newtown High School library, nor do they support book banning in general.
Thank you to those who spoke up in support of free speech and the First Amendment, and thank you especially to the young people for their bravery and conviction.
The problem, of course, is the Newtown BOE and the 4/3 Republican majority. It became clear at this meeting that this conservative BOE may very likely vote on May 16 to ban these books despite the unequivocal decision of the Special Review Committee to keep these two books on the shelves of the school library. (The Special Review Committee is composed of educational professionals who carefully reviewed the two books in accordance with the district’s thorough, multi-step process.)
Anyone who follows the news knows that this is not about the books, but about politics and a much broader agenda.
I hope of course that I am incorrect about the probable vote. But it is possible that two exceptional, award-winning, critically acclaimed books that have been vetted and approved by our very own team of professionals will be banned from the Newtown High School library. And if this happens, it will not go unnoticed by the press — local and national.
I can see Newtown school ratings plummeting, and subsequently possibly even real estate values.
But the more important cost of this will be to our high schoolers and their access to these two stellar pieces of literature that have both so successfully painted sympathetic, believable characters with whom teens can empathize and identify as they grapple with the not-easy process of growing up. As a critical reader, a mother, and a children’s book editor for many years, I know good literature when I read it — and Flamer and Blankets pass the test with flying colors.
These books are rare gems, and it’s offensive to see them being used as pawns for ulterior political motives. It would be a travesty if the teenagers of Newtown were no longer afforded easy access to them.
There is only one solution, and it is simple. Since the politics are clear, get out to vote in November. Three terms on the BOE are up at the end of this year: Deborra Zukowski (R), Alison Plante (D), and John Vouros (D). If you want to stop this national book banning crusade here in Newtown (and clearly a majority of us do), vote out the Republicans, keep the Democrats, and vote in more Democrats.