Wood County Schools have resolved book challenges relating to “obscene materials”

Changes schools are taking
Published: Feb. 19, 2023 at 10:56 PM EST
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - Challenges related to specific books whose allegedly obscene nature caused W.Va. Sen. Mike Azinger (R - Wood) to sponsor legislation to prohibit them have already been resolved by Wood County Schools.

Sen. Azinger’s legislation, SB 252, aims to prohibit obscene matter in or near West Virginia public schools. It was introduced to the West Virginia Senate in January, where it was directed to the judiciary committee. That month, WTAP spoke with Sen. Azinger about his legislation. Sen. Azinger said there were “three total” books in both the schools and libraries of Wood County that the bill was intended to prohibit.

When asked to name the books, Azinger said he couldn’t at that time. “I don’t like to deal in the titles because I get confused with what’s in each book,” Sen. Azinger said. “I don’t know them off the top of my head.” When WTAP contacted Sen. Azinger later for more information, he wrote in a text message, “The people that are helping me with this didn’t want to give the titles yet.” The ones “helping” the senator, he confirmed, were people affiliated with the Mid-Ohio Valley Citizens Action Coalition (MOVCAC).

WTAP spoke with people affiliated with the MOVCAC during the group’s meeting on Feb. 7 at The Rock Family Worship Center in Parkersburg. They shared the title of one of the books in question, the novel “More Happy Than Not,” by Adam Silvera. Jessica Rowley, whom the meeting’s other speakers identified as the person primarily responsible for researching the books, singled out a depiction of oral sex on page 34 of “More Happy Than Not” as being particularly obscene. The book, Rowley said, was at a high school library in the county. Rowley and the other MOVCAC speakers present declined to share which school had “More Happy Than Not” in its collection or the titles of any other books, saying they were concerned that sharing further information would leave them vulnerable to having their views misrepresented.

WTAP reached out to Michael Erb, Wood County Schools’ communications coordinator. Erb explained that there exits a procedural framework within WCS for challenging books in their libraries and classrooms, detailed in section 6144 of the school board’s active policies. After speaking with the county superintendent, Erb confirmed that “More Happy Than Not” was one of two books that had been challenged at Parkersburg High School. “More Happy Than Not” and the other book challenged at PHS, Ellen Hopkins’ novel “Rumble,” are currently under consideration by a committee to determine whether they ought to remain in circulation, in accordance with WCS challenged books policy.

Erb said the sexual-education-oriented graphic novel “Let’s Talk About It,” by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan, was challenged at Parkersburg South High School. Though the MOVCAC did not reference this book by title, they displayed its pages during their meeting on Feb. 7, highlighting its cartoonish but graphic displays of sex acts as being decidedly inappropriate for children. Evidently, the administration of Parkersburg South High School agreed, as the book was removed from the shelves before even making it to committee and is currently held by the school’s principal.

Erb identified a fourth book, this one challenged at Van Devender Middle School. “It’s Perfectly Normal,” a sexual education book by Robbie Harris, was, Erb said, never circulated in the first place. It had been used as reference by a teacher. After being challenged, it was placed with the school’s principal.