3 sophomores from Orchard Park High School speak out against the efforts by certain parents to ban books in the district's libraries at a Board of Education meeting
"I'm standing here in front of you all in opposition of the outrageous efforts to suppress and censor ideas and to defend the right of my peers to decide for themselves what they are capable of reading" - Luke Lippitt, Student
Students stand up
On the left, co-founder of Students Protect Education and student Claire Kent describes the anger she feels that she has to "be here speaking Infront of [the board] while [she] could be at home doing homework or reading a book." "We are not kids. We are young adults. We are old enough to decide what we want to read" says Kent as she asks the board to respect the rights of students to learn freely.
In the middle, co-founder and student Jillian Yarnes argues that "challenging uncomfortable topics does not make them go away." She outlines that the majority of the books being challenged were pertaining to LGBTQ and racial issues, revealing an obvious political agenda by those challenging these books.
On the right, co-founder and student Luke Lippitt points out that "92% of Americans are against the banning of books" and adds "We see a small group of parents that represent only about 8% of Americans trying to dictate what the young adults of other parents can read." He then goes on to say that he is the student government president, that he is proud to speak on behalf of his constituents, and that he has been empowered by them to do so.
The presence of students, the people who would be directly impacted by the decisions to remove books from the libraries, was a very powerful message. These 3 students were met with angry parents holding up signs with what they called "pornographic images and phrases" but also with a large group of students, parents, and community members at their support. The board heard about 20 speeches at this meeting, split half for removing these books and half against.
The Orchard Park School District's Superintendent David Lilleck addressed the divided crowd of about 300 people at the end of the meeting. He explained that public schools like Orchard Park represent all students and ideas. He outlined that the positive and safe messages that these books bring across and what they do for marginalized communities greatly outweigh the small “negative” parts of the book. He finished his message off by informing the community that by the end of the month, parents would be able to opt their children out of certain reading material, but that parents would not have the ability to restrict what students other than their own could read.