Hanover County school board presses forward with 70+ new book removals
Weeks after a failed ballot referendum, the appointed members are expanding the ban list.
It’s been two weeks since voters struck down an Election Day referendum for an elected school board. The county will remain one of 12 out of 136 localities in Virginia where school board members are appointed.
And this week, the appointed board expanded its book ban to 72 more titles that will be removed from public school libraries. Plus the 19 books it initially removed in June, three of which re-appeared on this week’s list, the county has banned upward of 91 nonfiction and fiction books, graphic novels, comics and more — many of which are autobiographical in nature — for being too sexually explicit.
School administrators received a memo from the school board that these books should be removed by Dec. 22, according to a district spokesperson.
Some of the titles include repeats of materials that were removed by the school board earlier this year. Other titles include the book of poems Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.
Traditionally, said materials are put through a multistep review process and removed via majority vote by the school board. In this case, dozens of books were delselected upon internal review by school administrators — which doesn’t require a public board vote.
After a book’s been deselected upon internal review, the school board’s policy allows for a teacher, librarian and principal to submit a request for a waiver to the School Board’s Library Materials Committee, which plans on such a challenge as early as Nov. 28.
If a request for reconsideration isn’t submitted after a book’s removal, said material won’t be reviewed or circulated in Hanover schools for multiple years.
“To see this many books, many of which are used in AP and IB classrooms, removed in a moment’s notice is just horrifying,” former Hanover educator Carrie Lindley told VPM News.
Lindley, a former elementary reading intervention instructor, has criticized the school board’s book policy in the recent past. She said the most horrifying aspect of the board's recent decision making is the undermining of hardworking teachers and librarians.
“I feel so badly for the educators in our county, many of whom are friends whose professional ethics and options are ignored,” she said. “The school board claims they’re working in coalition with them but I don’t know a single librarian who’s gotten face-to-face with them.”
Many Hanover parents told VPM News they became more attentive toward the seven-person school board as it began discussing controversial topics such as removing books and the civil rights of transgender students.
The board has also approved a number of policy revisions in recent months, including aligning the division with the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies for transgender students. Several civil rights organizations have opposed implementing those guidelines, which have no clear enforcement mechanism by the state. Groups that espouse “parental rights” like the Family Foundation have encouraged adoption of the policies.
The ballot measure was added in late July, after a grassroots coalition of about 90 volunteers gathered over 10,000 signatures from registered voters in the county. The Hanover Citizens for an Elected School Board started its campaign in late 2022, after failing to gather enough signatures for the 2021 the previous election cycle.
Over 23,000 or 52% Hanover voters sided against electing its school board members. Election Day results have yet to be certified by the Virginia Department of Elections Days.
“We won’t sugarcoat it: yesterday’s results are disappointing,” the group shared on Facebook after Election Day. “In a county that prides itself on patriotism, parental rights, and limiting government overreach, citizens chose to hand their most powerful asset — their vote — to a small group of officials.”
The statement continued, “Rest assured, our mission is not over. While Virginia law requires that we wait four more years before attempting the referendum again, we remain even more committed to bringing transparency and accountability to our school board.”
Many Hanover voters were of the same mind as the grassroots organization on election day. Kaylee Peters in the Henry District, told VPM News that the referendum was the reason she came to vote. Peters said she moved to the county from Texas with her husband and was surprised that school board elections didn’t happen in Hanover.
“Elected officials seem more prominent for the world we’re in today rather than appointed. I feel like right now, we don’t have any say,” Peters said.
Marcus Dean, a voter in the Mechanicsville District, told VPM News he hoped an election would bring more diversity to the appointed body, especially for candidates who are sometimes passed over by the board of supervisors during a rushed interview process.
“I mainly came to vote for the school board because right now the board’s pretty much all white men, so I figured we need a little more diversity in the county,” Dean said.
Banned books in Hanover County Public Schools
The 91 titles on this list have been marked for deselection from Hanover school libraries at various points this calendar year. This list is organized by alphabetical order of a book's title; several were written by the same author.
With 11 listed, novelist Ellen Hopkins is the most prevalent author on the list as of Nov. 22.
Note: Bolded titles first appeared on a previous list of deselected materials previously reported by VPM News. The reason for their repetition was not immediately apparent.
- A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas
- A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
- A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas
- A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
- A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
- All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
- Carnival at Bray by Jessie Foley
- Choke by Chuck Palahnuik
- Crank by Ellen Hopkins
- Damsel by Elana Arnold
- Dead End by Jason Myers
- Dig by A.S. King
- Dime by E.R. Frank
- Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas
- Exit Here by Jason Myers
- Fallout by Ellen Hopkins
- Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
- Flamer by Mike Curato
- Forever by Judy Blume
- Forever For a Year by B. T. Gottfred
- Glass by Ellen Hopkins
- GRL2GRL by Julie Anne Peters
- Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson
- Guyaholic by Carolyn Mackler
- Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
- House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas
- I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez
- I Never by Laura Hopper
- Identical by Ellen Hopkins
- If I Stay by Gayle Forman
- Impulse by Ellen Hopkins
- Infandous by Elana Arnold
- Jack of Hearts (and other parts) by L.C. Rosen
- Jesus Land: A Memoir by Julia Scheeres
- Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
- Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas
- Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
- Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships and Being Human by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan
- Life is Funny by E. R. Frank
- Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian
- Looking for Alaska by John Green
- Lucky by Alice Sebold
- Man O’ War by Cory McCarthy
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
- Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
- Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson
- Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton
- Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
- Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
- People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins
- Perfect by Ellen Hopkins
- Red Hood by Elana Arnold
- Red White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
- Rethinking Normal by Katie Rain Hill
- Rumble by Ellen Hopkins
- Shine by Lauren Myracle
- Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
- Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
- Smoke by Ellen Hopkins
- Sold by Patricia McCormick
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
- The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell and Freedom Writers
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
- The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
- The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
- The Haters by Jesse Andrews
- The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle
- The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab
- The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
- The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
- The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
- Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
- This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson
- Tilt by Ellen Hopkins
- Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas
- Tricks by Ellen Hopkins
- TTFN by Lauren Myracle
- Water For Elephants by Sarah Gruen
- We Are the Ants by Shaun Hutchinson
- What Girls are Made Of by Elana Arnold
- Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
- Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi
- Yolo by Lauren Myracle