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Controversy after superintendent sides with some District 20 parents wanting some books removed

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Three books were removed from school libraries in Academy District 20 after some concerned parents emailed the superintendent.

According to D20, Superintendent Tom Gregory received an email on April 27, 2023, from a group of parents about reportedly "vulgar language" and sexually explicit content in the three books found in multiple schools.

The email said, in part, "In summary, promotion of obscenity to a minor is a class 6 felony. [...] We are reaching out directly to you in hopes of a better solution. [...] This is just the tip of the iceberg as there are numerous obscene books in D20 school libraries."

The three books the parents asked to be removed were "Push" by Sapphire, "Identical" by Ellen Hopkins, and "Lucky" by Rachel Vail.

Four days later, Gregory permitted the books to be pulled from the shelves.

A group of parents sent an email to District 20 Superintendent Tom Gregory asking for three books to be removed from the school libraries due to sexually explicit and vulgar content. A few days later, Gregory permitted the schools to remove the books.

Now, some parents are questions whether Gregory is allowed to approve the removal of books. According to emails obtained by KRDO there does not seem to be a policy that allows Gregory to do what he did. One email indicates the district is working to change that policy.

In response to Gregory's permission to remove the books Discovery Canyon Principal Mark Wahlstrom asked , "Is there a specific policy I can point to for my decision?"

Gregory replied, "No, but….you are the [boss] of the school and are responsible for instructional and non-instructional materials within the school. When a community member raises a question you are obligated to look into it. As an aside….if they go the route of a formal “reconsideration of library materials” request (policy) and it gets to my level, I will have the books removed anyway. This is saving everyone time. Nothing helpful probably, but it is the reality."

Furthermore, Assistant Superintendent for Learning Services, Susan Field, responded to Wahlstrom saying, "We have a reconsideration policy, but it doesn’t state the principal can remove a book. We will be
changing that policy by July 1."

"We don't seek to ban books. We don't look to go to the publisher and say stop publishing this book. It's just that at certain times there are books that are in front of children that at a minimum the parents have the right to know that their children have access to that book," said Darcy Schoening, the co-chair of Moms for Liberty El Paso county.

"Ya know there was a book that I was reading yesterday that was in D20. And it was about a girl -- and I won't repeat the actual verbiage -- but the girl was talking about her father raping her. And just the utter sexual descriptions -- I mean they were just so brutal," said Schoening.

Schoening claims the group "advocates" for parents to raise their kids without them being exposed to sexually explicit material.

Per the website titled "AcademyDistrict20 "Educational Material," however, some of the descriptions listed for some of the books go beyond sexually explicit material.

For the children's book "Can I Touch Your Hair" by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, notes say "controversial racial commentary."

Notes on some of the books include, "sexualities," "profanities," "alternative gender ideologies," "alternate sexualities," and "references to racism."

On the homepage of the website, it states, "Over the past several years, “woke” activists and “progressive” groups filled with fidgety sirens, oblivious hypocrites, and village idiots across the nation have been meticulously tearing down the very fabric of our institutions (politics, education, and family) in the name of empty themes they often cannot articulate clearly, themselves. Here, in Academy School District 20, it is no different. Some staff (including the Superintendent & certain Board of Education members) have been collaborating with local radical groups to fill our children with ideas of fetishism, hate, and discrimination under the guise of “educational material”.

This website is dedicated to exposing the garbage that these culprits are attempting to hide from members of the community; and to give parents (rather than depraved halfwits) the resources necessary to regulate the cultivation of their own children."

One of the five schools with the books did pull the literature and is working on the next steps. The district said four other schools added the books to their annual review process - which will happen this summer.

There are now concerns surrounding Gregory's ability to remove those books without a formal book challenge process.

D20 told KRDO since the original request to remove the books, the district has received questions from parents asking for clarification of why and how books were removed from school libraries outside of the established book challenge process.

Read the full list of books these parents are concerned over here.

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Riley Carroll

Riley is a weekend anchor and reporter for KRDO. Learn more about her here.


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