Carroll Report Maryland Muckraker

Muckraker: Jozkowski, Zepp speak out against book removals requested by Moms for Liberty

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Amanda Jozkowski, Ronald Zepp, Gary Foote

Amanda Jozkowski, Ronald Zepp, and Gary Foote were among those who on Wednesday during a Board of Education in meeting in Carroll County, spoke out against a series of book removal requests previously submitted to Carroll County Public Schools through an effort organized by the local Moms for Liberty chapter, which maintains the books at issue depict graphic sex or rape, making them age-inappropriate for school students.

“Shock treatment”

Jozkowski, a social-liberal Board of Education candidate from 2022 who appears certain to run again in 2024, and Zepp, once a Democrat State Senate candidate who ran and lost to Republican Larry Haines in 2002, both took specific issue with how the Moms for Liberty representatives read aloud from some of the books pending removal during the July Board of Education meeting.

Jozkowski said she was “Actually pretty surprised to hear some of the excerpts read aloud here last month given that youth were present in the room and that others can freely view board meeting recordings online.”

And Zepp said his teenage granddaughter who watched the meeting, a CCPS student, was “Appalled that someone would read a pornographic passage from a book at a Board meeting.” Rhetorically asking who is more responsible for exposing students to pornographic content, he said it isn’t the teachers or the library, but rather an “outside organization” (Moms for Liberty) trying to use “shock treatment” to “sensationalize their organizations and themselves.”

Amanda Jozkowski and Ronald Zepp speak during the public comment portion of the August Board of Education meeting

“Threat to a healthy democracy!”

Remarking on why the books should not be removed, Jozkowski said doing so could undermine learning, and would ultimately be a threat to democracy. “Banning books outright risks losing valuable opportunities for learning and dialogue,” she said. “Limiting the diversity of voices and perspectives that can be expressed, read, and heard is a slippery slope – and a threat to a healthy democracy!”

During the 2022 election cycle, Jozkowski said discussions about diversity and equity are not political, and that one of her first actions if elected would be to repeal a previously adopted flag neutrality policy that disallows teachers from flying pride flags in classrooms. She said she thinks it is “Inherently racist and homophobic to say that we shouldn’t allow symbols of celebration of these groups,” in the school system.

Ban bullets not books

Gary Foote, a former peace corps volunteer turned chemistry and physics teacher at South Carroll High School, thinks the book removal issue would be put into appropriate perspective if the student representative to the Board were extended voting rights (like they have in Howard County). He said if the student member could vote “There would be more discussion regarding banning bullets as opposed to books or flags.” And that “Less attention would be given to those who have more hate in their hearts than knowledge in their heads.”

Gary Foote, a South Carroll High School teacher, speaks during the public comment portion of the August Board of Education meeting

Game of Thrones, Slaughterhouse-Five

As of this time last month, CCPS had received 39 requests for book removals, a number that has presumably grown since then. The books pending removal include Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and George R. R. Martin’s A Clash of Kings, the second book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series which was later adapted into the HBO show Game of Thrones.

School Superintendent Cynthia McCabe explained that each book will be reviewed individually by a Reconsideration Committee chaired by media supervisor Kathleen Brunnett, supported by two school administrators, one teacher, and three parents. McCabe also intends to make the media specialists more responsible for the books in their respective school libraries, saying she will “Place more accountability in the process of selecting materials by the media specialists themselves.”

Lawn Boy, Carroll Community College

In 2021 into 2022, the Reconsideration Committee decided to retain the controversial book Lawn Boy, which many consider pedophilic, after one concerned parent requested its removal. When the parent appealed the Committee’s decision to then Superintendent Steve Lockard, the text was eventually set aside and would only be made available to students with parental permission.

This Fall, Carroll Community College will offer a new “Banned Book Series” as part of its continuing education program. A promotion for the series on the community college’s website says “Books unite us; censorship divides us.” 

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