Carroll Report Maryland Muckraker

Muckraker: First books reviewed by CCPS to be retained, but now Media Director appears reassigned

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Carroll County Public Schools’s Reconsideration Committee is in the midst of reviewing more than 50 books after a series of book removal requests were submitted as part of an effort organized by the local Moms for Liberty chapter.

The Reconsideration Committee was designed to review only a couple books at a time, not 50. Because of the volume of removal requests and public feedback on the issue, on August 14th, School Superintendent Cynthia McCabe decided to remove all the books at issue from circulation in school media centers until the entire review and appeal process could be completed.

Now, documents dated from August 21st show that four books have completed the review portion, the determination for each of them being that they will be retained in High School libraries. Those four books are:

  • Not that Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture by Roxanne Gay

  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

  • The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

  • Tilt by Ellen Hopkins

The Reconsideration Committee decided to retain Roxanne Gay’s Not that Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, in part because it is a “Powerful collection of authentic and diverse voices,” and it “Shows growth and healing from a highly diverse group of rape/sexual assault victims and how they survived and continued to build a life rooted in strength and positivity.”

They said the book “Addresses issues of consent, healthy vs unhealthy relationships, boundary issues, self-care, and the need to seek help from qualified professionals for mental health issues.”

Book Looks, an online resource that rates books for age appropriateness, reports that the book depicts “Sexual assault and molestation,” and “Alternate gender ideologies.” The resource says the book has “fuck” in its prose 47 times and includes passages about gang rape and rape culture.

The author, a regular contributor to The New York Times, previously published a book called “Bad Feminist”, and penned a series of columns for Salon, some of which were titled “Sorry, the Patriarchy Isn’t Dead”, “Racism Is Every American’s Problem”, and “How America Profiled Trayvon Martin and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.”

Of the four books reviewed, only Slaughterhouse-Five is set to be curated at all. It will be removed from Middle School libraries but retained in High School ones. The Committee said “The book should only be in high school collections as it is narratively and thematically too complex and challenging for readers of middle school age.”

Once the Reconsideration Committee makes a determination after a book removal request, the removal applicant has 10 school days to appeal the decision to the Superintendent.

In 2021 into 2022, the Reconsideration Committee decided to retain the controversial book Lawn Boy after a removal request. The removal applicant appealed the decision to then Superintendent Steve Lockard, who decided to set the text aside and make it only available to students with parental permission.

The chairperson of the Reconsideration Committee is Kathleen Brunnett, CCPS’s Supervisor of Media & Technology. But a review of the CCPS staff directory shows a recent title change for Brunnett, who is now listed as an English teacher.

McCabe previously said the Reconsideration Committee’s term is ending and that they will be transitioning to a new one.

Former Board of Education candidate Amanda Jozkowski and former Democrat State Senate candidate Ronald Zepp both spoke out against the book removal requests during an August Board of Education meeting.

For her efforts in service of age-appropriate content, Kit Hart, the chair of Carroll’s Moms for Liberty chapter and previous recipient of the national organization’s Joyful Warrior award, was nominated for the Carroll County Public Library’s Light of Carroll award, which recognizes individuals, groups, and businesses that promote the power of literacy.

The founders of Rudolph Girls Bookstore in Westminster were also nominated, but after learning of Hart’s nomination, they withdrew themselves, saying “This year’s list of nominees includes someone who has been a vocal proponent of book bans in our public schools. After some consideration, we have asked CCPL to remove our name from the list of this year’s nominees.”

The bookstore was a sponsor of the 2023 Westminster Pride Festival, along with Lifebridge Health, the non-profit in charge of Carroll Hospital.

Westminster’s Mayor Mona Becker was also nominated. Becker, an Assistant Professor and Environmental Studies Department Chair at McDaniel College, recently made news at the college when she researched gender bias in chemistry textbooks.

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