Letter – Overreach by School Board

Published 3:41 pm Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

Here is the basic issue with the proposed changes to the school policies regarding “explicit” or “inherently divisive” content. 

The current policies require notification prior to using any “sexually explicit” material and allow parents to opt their children out of any material they disagree with. The proposed policy preemptively removes from the curriculum any material deemed either “sexually explicit” or “inherently divisive.” 

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This proposed change would mean that, because you may not want your children to view certain content, my children cannot view that content either.

For reference, the definition of “censorship” from the Oxford English Dictionary is “the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.” Since I have heard some arguments that the proposed policy is not censorship, I thought it necessary to point out that, by definition, this proposed policy is exactly that — censorship.

How will this policy play out if it is put into place? “The Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare has cross-dressing as a major plot point. Would this be considered “sexual conduct” and be therefore banned under the new policy? How about “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee? The racism of individuals and the town at large are central to the plot. Would this be considered “inherently divisive” and therefore banned? The language in the proposed policy is vague and confusing enough to allow for both of these classic works to be banned.

Should school materials be age-appropriate and have educational value? Absolutely! If there is a specific work that is problematic, by all means, let’s discuss it. Is the instructional value of the work worth keeping it in the curriculum? Or would another work provide equivalent educational value? 

However, preemptively removing whole swathes of material, as this proposed policy would do, is like using a flamethrower to kill a mosquito: It causes more damage than it fixes.


Greg Brown