On book banning: My email to the Hanover County School Board

Hanover County approves new library policy for books and then bans 17 titles

Dear Mr. Redd and Mr. Peterson,

Mr. Redd, I am shocked, disappointed, and appalled at the action taken by the Hanover County School Board last night. As a parent of two young children, one of which who attends HCPS and one of whom who will when she’s old enough, I find it abhorrent that you have decided to sacrifice our childrens’ education based on your own fears.

We were all students once, and we all know the value of being challenged by ideas that we do not hold. If we stand in the same comfortable shoes forever, we will never grow. Today you’ve stood with the side of never growing. Literature opens our eyes, it expands our worldview, it teaches us things we would never otherwise know, think things we would never otherwise be exposed to, and is the cornerstone of a liberal arts education. 

A liberal arts education teaches you how to think for yourself, how to evaluate content put before you with a critical eye, and yet the Hanover County School Board apparently doesn’t want critical thinkers. It doesn’t want us to educate our children and our students in a way that has stood the test of hundreds of years. 

Our school board is apparently so scared of a couple of books that they have never read that they must remove them from school libraries altogether, instead of engaging with their ideas. Disagree with them all you want, but the whole point of schooling and scholarship is to engage with ideas, and to just hide books under the metaphorical bed does not prepare our students for the world ahead of them.

Banning The Bluest Eye in particular is egregious, it is part of Toni Morrison’s body of work that was deemed worthy of the Nobel Prize in Literature. She is one of the best American writers in our history, and banning that is ridiculous. Is it a book for everyone? Of course not. But that is the purpose and role of school librarians, to put the right book in the right person’s hand. I could go off on another essay about the decimation of school libraries, but that is for another time.

You are also creating a chilling effect on teachers. I’ve already seen teachers saying that they are going to remove their in-classroom books, the ones that they have purchased with their own money because the School Board and the Board of Supervisors are unwilling or unable to provide these resources to teachers. They are removing them *all* because you are putting too many burdens on these teachers, teachers that may leave the school district because of your actions. 

Let me repeat that: you are materially making the school district worse with your asinine decision.

You may not like the future, you may rail against it, but all you’re doing is making this county worse for folks who already live here, and making it less likely that more people move here or work here.

I hope you re-think your choices and let the pursuit of knowledge be your true guide.


Ben Bromley

Mechanicsville, VA


Johnny Redd responds – among other items - Jun 6, 2023

[…] couple of days ago, I sent an email to Johnny Redd and Canova Peterson about the book banning actions that the Hanover County School […]