Letter to the Editor: We support Policy 109.2

By Nola Zook, Mallory Zook, and Cora MacAdam (Saegertown students)

Policy 109.2, which was recently passed by the PENNCREST School Board, prompted the removal of books containing sexually explicit content from PENNCREST school libraries.

It is evident that many people disagree with Policy 109.2 for various reasons. Many people argue that the removal of these books is an injustice to the LGBTQ community, and that it is robbing children of education and the opportunity to grow in empathy and interpersonal skills. These concerns are understandable, but they lack validity. The policy’s purpose is to remove unnecessary and explicit content from the school libraries, not take away the ability for LGBTQ kids to feel understood. It is true that some of the books being removed do contain LGBTQ content, but that is not the purpose of the policy. If books containing that type of content have been removed, it is because there is sexually explicit content in it as well. 

Many people argue that kids can’t get these books other ways, but this argument is also not factual. In the PENNCREST District, there are two public libraries: the Saegertown Public Library and the Cambridge Public Library. A student from any of the three schools: SHS, CSHS, and MHS, is within a 25-30 mile radius of reaching a public library, including the Meadville Public Library, which lies right outside of the district lines. The inventory of all three libraries reaches almost 100,000 books, including ‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian’ by Sherman Alexie, ‘The Bluest Eye’ by Toni Morrison, ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini, ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ by Stephen Chbosky, ‘The Glass Castle’ by Jeannette Walls, ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’ by Ned Vizzini, and ‘Eleanor & Park’ by Rainbow Rowell (These books have all been listed in other Panther Press articles as examples of books that have been removed from the library.).

The books being reviewed by the School Board are available to junior/senior high-school-aged students, who have widely varying levels of maturity. The brain physically stops growing between the ages of 11-14, but it does not fully mature till the mid-late 20s. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “The front part of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, is one of the last brain regions to mature. This area is responsible for skills like planning, prioritizing, and controlling impulses. Because these skills are still developing, teens are more likely to engage in risky behaviors without considering the potential results of their decisions.” Young minds are the most impressionable, which is a reality that can be potentially harmful to adolescents.

 The presence of sexually explicit books in school libraries could lead to students accidentally being exposed to these materials, or deliberately reading the books without the knowledge of their parents or guardians. If kids try to process these things on their own, they could develop a misled, incomplete, or dangerous view of sexual concepts, which could lead to premature sexual experimentation including both perpetrating and permitting sexual assault. 

Regardless of personal beliefs, it is potentially unsafe for young minds to discover these ideas on their own. Shouldn’t we be safeguarding against unintended consequences, especially when it directly affects children?

If you’d like to submit a letter to the editor and are a student at Saegertown Jr./Sr. High School, email editor-in-chief Brennen McWright at brmcwright@penncrest.org.

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