Another Manitoba school division is facing calls to censor some books and to take greater steps to monitor the content in books that can be found on library and classroom shelves.

On Monday evening, the southern Manitoba-based Prairie Rose School Division (PRSD) held its regular board meeting in Carman, but it had to be moved from the division’s board office to the nearby Carman Collegiate to accommodate a larger than anticipated crowd.

Monday’s agenda included one delegate who spoke in favour of increased regulations over what books are available in the division’s schools and three who spoke out against any moves to ban or censor books or other literature.

Raelyn Fox, who said she is a mother to children who attend school in PRSD, spoke first on Monday, and said that lately she has been both “shocked and disgusted” by what is being made available at schools, and said some books contain what she said was “graphic sexual” content.

Fox read aloud excerpts from several books and publications during the meeting that covered issues of sexuality, and sexual and gender identity, and books that she said are not appropriate for school shelves, but are currently available in the division.

“I sit here shocked disappointed and disgusted, you and the staff hold a legal position of trust and power in relation to the students and minors that attend your school,” Fox said.

“Tonight I will signal that there has been an abuse and a breach of power by your staff, and a betrayal of parents and public trust.”

In opposition to increased monitoring of books and the removal of some from school shelves was Melissa Benner, the president of the Prairie Rose Teachers Association, which represents division teachers and staff.

Benner said she believes that free speech is a right that all Canadians hold, but she does not believe that it should allow for “bigotry and hatred” or for people or groups to decide what others can and cannot read at school.

“In a democratic society, no matter what our personal values are, all individuals have a right to voice their opinion, but hateful behaviour has no place in a civilized society and will not be tolerated,” Benner said. “All individuals also have the right to participate in and access information, and that affects their lives and their well-being.”

Benner said she has also become increasingly concerned about anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and actions she first noticed in the U.S., but seem to be spreading into some areas of southern Manitoba.

“There are many individuals who are not here tonight, because they do not feel safe. They fear being targeted bullied and harassed based on who they are,” Benner said. “And their fear is not without merit, over the past months there has been a disturbing pattern of discriminatory behaviour targeting individuals.”

She said banning books some might deem inappropriate would also be dangerous because it would lead to less critical thinking in schools and in classrooms.

“School is a place where students seek knowledge and build awareness, not just about themselves, but about the world they live in,” she said.

“Books allow us to explore different perspectives, to challenge our beliefs, and to grow intellectually.”

PRSD say trustees will discuss Monday’s delegations, and the information that came forward during Monday’s meeting at their next board meeting scheduled for June 26, and the division plans to release a statement after that meeting concludes.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

By Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 20, 2023 at 12:39

This item reprinted with permission from    The Sun    Winnipeg, Manitoba
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