A now-frequent commenter at Alamance-Burlington school board meetings returned Monday night and asked the school board to remove what she says are “obscene” books from ABSS school libraries.
Mamie Brooks of Graham told school board members this week that a group she and her husband Anthony Brooks have launched, called the “F.A.C.T.S. 2.0” task force, has located 52 books in Alamance County public libraries –including 22 which she said are in ABSS school libraries – that the group believes are inappropriate for children and young adults.
Anthony Brooks also has previously voiced concerns to school board members, during the public comments period of several meetings last fall and earlier this year, about thematically-explicit books that are available in school libraries.
In an earlier interview with The Alamance News, Anthony Brooks said he and his wife had pulled their daughter out of Graham High School and enrolled her at a prep school in Georgia, after becoming concerned about what their daughter was being taught in her economics class, which he called “watered-down versions of Critical Race Theory.”
Anthony Brooks is black; Mamie Brooks is white; both are U.S. military veterans – he was in the Army, and she was in the Coast Guard.
Both during their comments to the school board and in separate interviews with The Alamance News, Anthony and Mamie Brooks have questioned whether it’s appropriate to offer sexually-explicit books, including those seen as promoting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) sexuality, at ABSS school libraries.
“Her teacher was telling her that conservatism was a form of white supremacy. . . I think people need to be concerned about what’s being taught to our kids.” – Anthony Brooks
“Her teacher was telling her that conservatism was a form of white supremacy,” Anthony Brooks recalled in the earlier interview. “They were teaching her the Democratic way of thinking is the right way to think and the fair way to push back against racist ideology.” He and his wife went to the school and spoke with their daughter’s teacher, as well as the high school’s principal, before withdrawing her from Graham High School, Brooks told the newspaper.
Anthony Brooks said in the earlier interview that he had found four LGBTQ-themed books in Alamance County libraries, which he said was “enough to confirm that this stuff is being taught in our schools…I think people need to be concerned about what’s being taught to our kids.”
The couple has launched “Alamance County F.A.C.T.S. 2.0,” which they told the school board in January had been modeled on Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s “F.A.C.T.S Task Force: Fairness and Accountability in the Classroom for Teachers and Students.” That effort is intended to “provide a central state-wide mechanism for gathering and sharing data related to parent concerns regarding public education,” according to the Lt. Governor’s website.
Mamie Brooks told school board members Monday night that her group had found “obscene” books in 22 ABSS school libraries and that she would be emailing each of them a spreadsheet detailing the availability of those books by school.
“On behalf of concerned parents of Alamance County, I humbly request prompt removal of these books. Requests for reconsideration of this material are also forthcoming. Lastly, our legal team is waiting to help us remove these books if our request goes ignored.” – Mamie Brooks
“[We] have partnered with Pavement Education Project which meet [a state statutory prohibition on obscene literature and exhibitions],” Brooks told school board members during their public comments period Monday night. She said that the two organizations had located 22 books in ABSS school libraries which they believe to be obscene. “On behalf of concerned parents of Alamance County, I humbly request prompt removal of these books. Requests for reconsideration of this material are also forthcoming. Lastly, our legal team is waiting to help us remove these books if our request goes ignored.”
The organization that the Alamance County group is working with, Pavement Education Project, describes itself as a nonpartisan group “formed in response to sexually related books and instructional materials in public schools that are emotionally, mentally, and physically harmful to children, as evidenced by rising rates of depression and other psychological disorders. The content of said materials ranges from explicit to inexplicit sexual activities including but not limited to rape, incest, and hook up dating.”
Mamie Brooks subsequently provided The Alamance News with a breakdown of the books her group had located, and which ABSS school libraries have them (see accompanying charts).
[Story continues below charts.]
Critics, including Robinson, have said that some of the titles that have garnered attention in recent months, such as Lawn Boy and Gender Queer, promote LGBTQ themes, pedophilia, and other sexually-explicit concepts that aren’t appropriate for school-age children – particularly at the elementary school level.
‘Personally verified’ these books are in school libraries
Mamie Brooks, who serves as the director of the Alamance County F.A.C.T.S 2.0 task force, told the newspaper Tuesday, “I have personally verified” [that] each of the books” are in these ABSS school libraries listed on her spreadsheet.
Brooks said she “hadn’t even thought to look for” copies of the Holy Bible or other books promoting Christian and/or other faith-based values in ABSS school libraries. She did confirm that some school libraries have copies of reference books such as The Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible and religious fiction such as Keeping Faith: A Novel by Jodi Picoult, the latter of which Brooks said are available in the libraries at Highland Elementary School and Western and Graham high schools.
School board vice chairman Patsy Simpson asked later in the meeting – after Brooks had completed her remarks and left – whether Brooks had cited a General Statute that “specifically refers to banning books.”
School board member Wayne Beam said that parents who object to books and/or instructional materials have to follow an ABSS policy to lodge a formal “challenge.”
School board attorney Adam Mitchell pointed out later in the discussion that the statute which Mamie Brooks had referenced “is a criminal statute that defines obscene literature and exhibitions.”
“So her right would be to follow the policy, if she feels we have violated that, would be to file a grievance,” Simpson said. “I was just kind of curious, how do you get in the schools – with everybody gone and with Covid – to look at books?”
“She referenced something called ‘FACTS,’” said school board member Allison Gant.
“Yeah, that’s Mr. Robinson’s initiative,” Simpson added. “I just wanted to make sure she knows the proper process and that we do have a policy.”
The ABSS policy, “Parental Inspection of and Objection to Instructional Materials,” provides a process by which parents may submit an objection in writing to a school principal, who “shall try to” resolve the complaint informally, while keeping the material in use during the review period. A parent also has the right to ask for his/her child to be excused from any use of the challenged material, according to the policy.
If the school principal chooses to reject the challenge, a parent has the right to file an appeal with the school board and/or superintendent, who may appoint a special advisory committee consisting of a parent representative; a representative from the Alamance County public library system; a parent and a media coordinator from the school in which the challenge originated; and the superintendent or his designee, the ABSS policy states.
Meanwhile, several nearby public school systems – including Wake, Orange, and Guilford County school systems – have heard similar complaints in recent months. Most of those school systems responded by creating panels to review the “challenged books” but took no action to remove them, citing First Amendment protections provided by the U.S. Constitution, multiple media outlets have reported between January and June of this year.
School board chairman Sandy Ellington-Graves confirmed in an interview Wednesday morning that she has asked incoming ABSS superintendent Dr. Dain Butler to have someone from the Central Office follow up with Brooks regarding the concerns she had voiced during the meeting Monday night.
“I reached back out to her and thanked her for sending the spreadsheet listing the books and which school libraries they’re in,” Ellington-Graves said, adding that she would be contacting Butler to determine the next appropriate steps.