Amendment surrounding books on ‘sexual orientation and gender identity’ up for Rapides Parish Library

Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 5:59 PM CST
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RAPIDES PARISH, La. (KALB) - A proposed amendment to the Rapides Parish Library’s collection development policy, focused on content available for children and teens, has sparked controversy on social media about the possibility of preventing content related to topics involving sexual orientation and gender identity.

The amendment, which appears on the library’s Board of Control meeting agenda for Dec. 13, 2022, at 3:30 p.m. at the Westside Regional branch, was proposed by member James Morgan, the board appointee for District G. Morgan who was appointed to the Board of Control on Sept. 6, 2022, by Rapides Parish Police Jury member Sean McGlothlin.

On the agenda, the item is written simply, “Collection Development Policy Amendment Proposal (James Morgan - District G).”

News of the item being placed on the agenda began to circulate after it appeared this week. Some were concerned that the item may focus on excluding books related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

In a social post circulating written by Ann Lowrey, who works with CLASS, she said she had “learned through the grapevine” that the agenda item had to do with altering the library’s collection development policy “to exclude children’s and teen books that include references to sexuality, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Lowrey told her Facebook followers who “support access to literature that helps reduce stigma and discrimination against the LGBT community [to] show up and make their voices heard.”

So, News Channel 5 reached out to Morgan for more information on the proposal ahead of the meeting to provide more context and reasoning for his proposal. He declined to provide context and told News Channel 5 he did not want to provide information to us that has not been provided to the public yet, and that we would know when the public is made aware of the specifics of the proposal at the meeting.

Despite that, News Channel 5 was able to independently obtain Morgan’s proposal which was sent internally to fellow board members. In it, Morgan wanted to add to sentences to “clarify” the library’s stance on collections it has geared toward children (preschool through age 12) and teens (13-17).

In that detailed proposal sent to board members, Morgan references other library boards around the state, like Lafayette and St. Tammany Parish, taking similar actions.

He also claimed the amendment would not be a means of banning books or “inhibit anyone from checking out or reading any books,” but again, the proposal says collections “shall not include” content regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

News Channel 5 reached out to Celise Reech-Harper, the director of the Rapides Parish Library, for clarification on the agenda item and how the board operates. She told us that individual board members, who are appointed by respective police jurors, place items on the agenda for consideration. The board then has the opportunity to vote if policy changes are requested.

”We highly value the ability for all of our community members to make the appropriate selections for themselves and their families,” said Reech-Harper. “Parents and guardians are empowered by our current existing policy. And I am looking forward to a robust discussion and I hope that any community members that wish to have their voices heard will be at our meeting at 3:30 on Tuesday.”

Reech-Harper directed us to the library’s current Collection Development Policy and a subsection related to Requests for Reconsideration.

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