The Diverse Classroom Library Initiative

By Charlotte McConnell, LCDC Member – November 9th, 2019 – At the start of this school year, LCPS unveiled its Diverse Classroom Library initiative. These books are not mandatory or apart of the core curriculum. They can be used in lessons if there is a direct tie to the subject matter. These books were selected by LCPS staff using the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s Diversity Book List and Mackin’s Identity Inclusive Texts Rubric. This was done to ensure every student in LCPS has access to books that reflect their lived experiences.

Some of the books in the Diverse Classroom library have already been available to students in LCPS’s libraries. Offering them in the classroom gives students more choices for free reading. As students enter middle and high school, their interest in reading declines. Reasons for this are lack of time, preference for electronic devices like cell phones and gaming systems, and lack of choices in reading materials. Giving students easy access to books and more variety in the materials available to them can increase the amount of time students spend reading.

People have been giving public comment regarding these books over the past few months. There are people who object to profanity and depictions of sexual activity in these books. However, the biggest objection is over LGBTQ+ content. When you object to a book like Heather Has Two mommies, you are really objecting to same-sex marriage. The reality is there are students who attend LCPS who have same-sex parents and they do not see themselves included in our schools. There are students who attend LCPS who identify as LGBTQ+ and face bullying and are afraid to live their authentic lives. If you want to see a reduction in youth suicide, homelessness, teen pregnancies, and bullying, we must cultivate an LGBTQ+ inclusive and affirming environment in our schools.

There is a Loudoun based group that has been fanning the flames of this issue in the hope of influencing our school board elections. This group is being supported by Family Watch International, which promotes traditional marriage. The Southern Poverty law center has designated Family Watch International as a hate group because of it’s anti-LGBT views. Robocalls were made across our county claiming Democratic candidates for school board support pornography in our schools. On Nov. 5th, voters rejected this false narrative by electing 7 Democrats to the Loudoun County School Board. But that has not stopped the conversation around diverse books in our schools.

Some have argued that these books are available at the Loudoun County library and that should be sufficient. Our public library system is one of the reasons I love living in Loudoun. I recently participated in their Strategic Plan Community Retreat where I learned that our library has difficulty serving households with an annual income below $80k/year. They also fall short in serving people who are of middle and high school age. Other barriers to accessing our public library is lack of transportation and internet access.

We have heard from librarians and students how meaningful it has been to finally have books available in their school that mirror their own lived experiences. Some of these books have given students the language they need to discuss abuse that they have experienced or something they are struggling with and feel alone. These diverse books will also give students a window into lives that are different from their own which can increase empathy, compassion, and understanding.

The ACLU Virginia recently sent a letter to LCPS Superintendent Eric Williams and School Board Chairman Jeff Morse. In the letter, they said “The First Amendment does not allow the government to get rid of or limit the use of books or ideas because they are controversial, unpopular, or offensive. Purging certain books from school libraries because some parents do not like them is government action favoring the opinion of some parents over others. Passing judgments, applying labels, and red-flagging educational materials that might prompt uncomfortable but insightful discussions are activities that do not belong in our public schools. In fact, bending to the will of any number of vocal parents could lead to a narrower and narrower list of books for students to read on a more and more homogeneous set of topics, adversely affecting the rights of those students and parents who want a more expansive and inclusive reading list from which to choose.”

For more reading:

https://www.loudountimes.com/news/diverse-classroom-libraries-spark-debate-in-loudoun-county/article_62e8671c-eaa6-11e9-ac15-4f7856694f30.html

https://loudounnow.com/2019/10/24/parents-continue-protests-over-diversity-book-collections-in-loudoun-schools/

https://www.loudountimes.com/news/supporters-opponents-of-loudoun-county-public-schools-diverse-libraries-come/article_5095d1d8-f5cf-11e9-a423-0bf60e98194d.html

https://wtop.com/loudoun-county/2019/11/backlash-support-aimed-at-loudoun-co-schools-diverse-books-program/

Thank You Loudoun Democrats

Loudoun County Virginia, November 5th, 2019 – The people of Virginia awoke this morning to a new reality. A reality where women will be treated as equals. A reality where criminals will no longer be able to purchase weapons of war to terrorize our schools, movie theaters, churches, and synagogues. A reality of inclusivity for all people regardless of the color of their skin, their sexual / gender orientation or their religious affiliation. A reality where our schools prioritize the needs of children over decreasing the tax rate by a couple of pennies. The people have spoken loudly and clearly and have insisted that Virginia join the majority of America in the 21st century by MANDATING policies that just make sense. This morning Virginians awoke to find themselves living in a Blue State.

You made this happen. The countless volunteers who knocked on a stranger’s door and announced, “My name is … and I represent the Loudoun County Democrats.” You, who called people and asked your neighbors to please come out and vote in record numbers in an “off-off year” election. You, who wrote postcards imploring people to support the candidates of the Democratic Party and reject the gun lobbies and other special interests that act against the will of the people. You, who woke up at 4 a.m. to set up and staff ALL of the precincts across Loudoun County to hand out sample ballots and elect our endorsed candidates. Thank you to all of the unions such as the 602 Chapter of Steamfitters, the SEIU, the International Association of Firefighters and the Brotherhood of Carpenters without whom this would not have been possible. Thank you to the thousands of volunteers across hundreds of grassroots organizations that came out to volunteer. Thank you to 350 Loudoun, Mothers Demand Action, Indivisible, NOVA Grassroots, and MANY others We would also like to thank the NAACP and League of Women Voters for energizing, educating and informing the residents of Loudoun County on the local issues that really matter. To the thousands of everyday, ordinary Americans that came out to volunteer and to make their community a better place — we say THANK YOU. Thank you for making Virginia a better place to live, to grow up, to raise a family, and to retire. Thank you for making Virginia and America a safer place. Thank you for all of your time and your effort to turn Virginia Blue.

And THANK YOU to our amazing candidates and elected officials. Thank you for being decent, honest people with integrity whom we could stand behind and support. Thank you for representing the best of Loudoun County. Thank you for organizing and operating the best campaigns. Thank you for your campaign staff and volunteers that enabled this historic victory.

The real story of Virginia can be told through the diversity of our elected representatives. We not only flipped the House, the Senate, the School Board and the Board of Supervisors — they now better represent both men and women with diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds. We elected the first African American woman to the Soil and Water Board and the first Indian American to the General Assembly. Our elected officials look like us, speak like us, share our religious views, and have a wide range of ethnic backgrounds like us, and REPRESENT Loudoun County.

Thank you to Congresswoman JENNIFER WEXTON, State Senators JOHN BELL, BARBARA FAVOLA, and JENNIFER BOYSKO; House Delegates WENDY GOODITIS, DAVID REID, KATHLEEN MURPHY, KARRIE DELANEY, IBRAHEEM SAMIRAH and SUHAS SUBRAMANYAM for providing the leadership and guidance needed to bring about real change in Loudoun County and across Virginia and the United States.

A very special thank you to PHYLLIS RANDALL, Chairwoman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and BUTA BIBERAJ, Commonwealth’s Attorney for all of your organizing, fundraising, and campaigning to make this happen for us in Loudoun County. Thank you to the Crew and the Firefighters for getting it done!

Thank you to our new and returning MAJORITY members of the Board of Supervisors: Phyllis Randall, Chairwoman; NEW member Juli Briskman of Algonkian; NEW member Mike Turner of Ashburn; NEW member Sylvia Glass of Broad Run; Kristen Umstattd of Leesburg; and Koran Saines of Sterling.

Thank you so much for our new and returning MAJORITY members of the School Board: NEW member Denise Corbo representing all of Loudoun County At-large; NEW member Atoosa Reaser of Algonkian; NEW member Harris Mahedavi of Ashburn; NEW member Ian Serotkin of Blue Ridge; NEW member Leslee King of Broad Run; NEW member Beth Barts of Leesburg; and Brenda Sheridan of Sterling.

Thank you for keeping the focus on the natural resources of Loudoun County on the Soil and Water Board John Flannery and Michelle Thomas.

We also need to thank Justin Hannah, Sri Amudhanar, and Kannan Srinivasan for fighting extremely difficult countywide races for Sheriff, Commissioner of Revenue and Treasurer, respectively. These races were always going to be the most difficult, and they clearly indicate the path ahead for Loudoun County Democrats. These positions are critical to Loudoun County residents in terms of governance, and we will be fighting for them in the future. You will be hearing their names and seeing their signs again!

To all of our candidates who did not win, you represented the best of Loudoun County. To Ronnie Ross, Mavis Taintor, Tia Walbridge, Forest Hayes, Sree Nagireddi and Zerell Johnson-Welch we love you and believe you were the better candidate! You fought difficult battles, sometimes against multiple opponents or dug-in incumbents. We will be there for you in the future as you were there for us in 2019.

The Loudoun County Democratic Committee would also like to specifically thank Chairwoman Lissa Savaglio for challenging us to knock on over 20,000 doors. When they said it could not be done, she did it. And Precinct Operations Chair Jackie von Wodtke, who wrangled over 500 volunteers to staff ALL 98 precincts, and ALL of the shifts at the three absentee polling locations over the last few months. You, alongside all of the members of LCDC, have shown us the strength and the power of the Democratic Committee in Loudoun County. You have challenged us, cajoled us and begged us to do our best, and the members have risen to meet the challenge. To all the members and volunteers of the LCDC, THANK YOU for making Loudoun County the amazing place it is today to live and work, and to grow up, raise a family and retire!