Parents in North Smithfield question presence of ‘inappropriate’ books in public school libraries

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – Several parents are questioning the presence of certain books available in the libraries of North Smithfield public schools, saying some are “pornographic,” and that many are inappropriate for the age groups that currently have access to the literature.

“I don’t know how these books have made it into our libraries, onto our shelves, for our children to access, but it’s alarming to say the least,” Arianna Ramos, parent of a high school junior, told members of the school board last week. “I would like to know how this happened, and see what kind of actions are going to be taken to address this.”

The concerns have led School Committee Chairman James Lombardi to request a review of all library books at North Smithfield schools, with a report of the findings.

Parent Deborah Gianfrancesco presented a list of books currently on the shelves of school libraries that she found age inappropriate, which included Beloved; Two Boys Kissing; This One Summer; 13 Reasons Why; The Absolute True Diary of a Part Time Indian; More Happy Than Not; Drama; Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Tricks; Fly on the Wall; Sloppy Firsts; and The Truth About Alice.

Gianfrancesco read passages from some of the novels, warning that parents with young children might want to have them leave the room.

“He spreads her legs. Her palm pressed gently,” she read from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. “To me, this would be more of a porn book than anything else.”

From The Kite Runner, she read, “I knew your mother. Did you know that? I knew her real good. I took her from behind by the creek over there.”

“It’s very graphic,” she said. “This is also about homosexual rape. A child does get raped in this book.”

Drama is about homosexuality,” Gianfrancesco said, noting that there’s one copy of the book at the high school, two in the middle school and four in the elementary school. “One of them is checked out at the elementary school which means a child, under 10, has a book about homosexuality.”

“I don’t know how other parents feel. I find it to be completely inappropriate,” she said.

Published in 2012, Drama is a graphic novel that depicts homosexual crushes, and was the seventh-most banned book between 2010 and 2019, according to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that aims to help parents and kids navigate media and technology, rated it appropriate for ages 10 and up.

The website rates The Kite Runner for ages 15 plus and Extremely Loud as appropriate for ages 14 and up.

“I don’t know who’s in charge of the book choices but I would not want my son to have access to any of these books,” Gianfrancesco said.

Ramos pointed in particular to books she said glorify teen suicide, including By the Time You Read This I’ll be Dead.

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 24,” Ramos said. “This was a book child psychologists have warned as have triggering content that includes details about how a person can commit suicide.”

Anne Marie Omweg, a 20 year resident of North Smithfield who noted she has extensive background in education, said the books concerning suicide are “dark and bleak,” while others are depicting, “deviant sexuality.”

“Political agendas are supported and even promoted in our schools,” Omweg said. “How low does the bar have to go before someone says ‘stop?'”

Parent Greg Galano asked those in the audience if they understood the severity of what had been read.

“Are we going to do something about this or is this going to continue to grow?” Galano asked.

Lombardi told NRI NOW this week that he’s submitted a request for a review of library books to Supt. Michael St. Jean, although he is not yet sure how long it will take to get the report.

“My position is that the administration needs to review the books, and make a determination on what’s appropriate and what’s not,” Lombardi said, adding that, regardless of the outcome, “anything pertaining to sexual acts at the elementary level is unacceptable to me.”

“There’s certain lines I will draw, but I will listen to arguments from both sides,” Lombardi said. “I can’t rationalize having a book that refers to specific sexual activity in any type of elementary school.”

“If a parent wants to buy books, that is their personal opinion for how they want to raise their child,” he added, noting that he’s unsure who picks the books that make it to school library shelves.

But before any decisions are made, Lombardi said, “I want to see the report.”

Asked if he was inclined toward banning or removing any books from public school libraries, Committee member Paul Jones said, “I didn’t interpret the parents at the last meeting asking us to ban any books. I took it more as them asking us to look at which books are in which school libraries and if some might be better understood by older students as opposed to elementary students, which is fair.”

“If there are any people out there who think we should be banning books in North Smithfield, then let me say simply: no,” Jones added.

School Committee member William Connell said he also wants to see what the superintendent has to say on the issue.

“I really have given it a lot of thought,” Connell said. “I want to keep an open mind and listen to what is presented.”

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18 COMMENTS

  1. So do these parents that condemn these books monitor what their kids are looking at on the internet?
    Are they letting them access TikTok? Let’s start there before we burn books.

  2. Save me, save the children. God forbid the children learn about people different from themselves, As a kid, I could not wait to get my hands on Lady Chatterley’s lover. Did that pervert me? My God, get a griip! Did your readings as a kid negatively influence you? If so, please share the the negativity of your education. Looking forward to hearing from the book banning people.

  3. This sickness has now reached every town in this state. Gotta hand it to the libs. They took over higher education first, indoctrinated an entire new generation and now THEY are Indoctrinating your children right before your eyes.

    • What sickness, intolerance? Parents should monitor what they let their kids read, not you. We live in a democracy, which means to each his own, leave mine alone.

  4. There were no issues with homosexuality being aired by anyone that spoke at the meeting. The concern is books glorifying teen suicide, even how to commit suicide are available for our kids to read in their schools. Books that child psychologists have warned about. Books depicting sexual behavior available to kids that are so young, they don’t even know how babies are made or what sex even is yet, but can access books at their school illustrating child rape and violent, and AGE inappropriate sexual content. No books should be banned in a public library, but for schools to provide this, and in some cases in other districts, require reading of this nature, is what parent’s have a problem with.

    • There’s…..a direct quote about one of the books being about homosexuality and how someone under the age of 10 shouldn’t have it. The woman who made this whole ordeal is on here posting about that book saying children shouldn’t read Drama because it’s about homosexuality. Don’t sit here and lie about it. What about a book featuring homosexual crushes is inappropriate? Do you think lgbt people wake up one morning and take a survey to find out if they’re gay? I knew at a very young age and having literature where I could see myself would have been profoundly supportive. There is a clear issue with the topic of homosexuality otherwise it wouldn’t have been brought up. Don’t try and gaslight people when we can all see the issue in front of our face.

      • As a mother to multiple homosexual and heterosexual individuals that has always raised my kids to understand they are born perfectly, the way they are meant to be, I hear you. I understand where you’re coming from, and agree books that support sexual awareness can be healthy, but in an age appropriate manner. Love is beautiful when shared with two people weather gay or straight, and let’s face it, no one chooses who they love. This is not a homophobic airing of grievances. The issue aired around that book Drama, is that a book for kids in elementary school, ages 5-10, can read a book addressing sexuality (gay or straight would be the same frankly), is something parents want to be aware of so they can make an informed decision about whether their child is ready for or not, to read it. Drama, was of the more innocuous mentioned books however. Books that contain graphic depictions that do fall within the very definition of child pornography, “deviant sexuality” brought up in the article meaning books that contain things like bestiality, abuse, child rape, this is not a reference of homosexuality. This is not about homophobia. This is about books getting into our schools, without notice, for kids of all ages to read and all we’re asking is for a review to confirm their appropriation, and making sure our kids have access to materials that aren’t harmful to their mental well-being.

  5. These books do not belong in elementary school. And they should not be read without an adult available to answer questions the children might have. Having someone randomly select a book without assessing their readiness for the subject is irresponsible. The topic of suicide is another issue. If students show an interest in this book, do any adults notice?

  6. Yes, let’s remove any references to “deviant” sexuality. Then the gay parents can object to all the books depicting heterosexual relationships, because of course no one should be forced to tolerate literature that describes a lifestyle other than their own. And then eventually there won’t be any books to argue about. Problem solved.

  7. Not sure if these people have an adequate amount of pearls to clutch. Anyone want to wager if they also have very strong feelings about cancel culture?

    • Did you read any of the books in question or just here to spew nonsense? One book has a teenager being raped by a soldier and the details of the encounter is graphic . So you think this is OK?

      • TRAUMATIC: Being raped by a soldier.
        NOT TRAUMATIC: Reading a book where somebody is raped by a soldier.
        I don’t understand what sort of “damage” you think literature is capable of inflicting upon a child, but the brain simply doesn’t worked that way. There’s a lot of people talking to a lot of therapists about terrible things from their childhood that caused lasting damage to their lives and minds. Rarely are books indicated to be the culprit.

        • This is simply not true. Child psychologists and the AFSP have warned against some of these books as having triggering content for people struggling with severe depression. After Netflix aired “13 Reasons Why” (another book available in schools) articles were published on a spike in male teen suicides in particular.

      • What’s sad is that you cherry picked 1 or 2 sentences from novels and missed the entire purpose of the books. What you demonstrated at that SB meeting was rampant homophobia and racism.

    • Did you even read the books? One of the books mentioned has a detailed account of a teenage boy being raped by a soldier. You want your kids (if you even have any) to read this then you buy it. I
      do not and want them removed!

  8. “Drama is about homosexuality.”

    This line tells me everything I need to know about their motives. It’s 2022. Let’s stop pretending like gay people don’t exist. The LGBTQ+ community should be embraced and welcomed–not shunned and demonized.

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