WOODBRIDGE, Va. — An elementary school principal in Woodbridge is responding to concerns from parents after the librarian read a children's fairytale book that featured a gay couple.
During the video morning announcement at Marshall Elementary School on Friday, the school librarian read the book "Prince & Knight" in recognition of the school district proclaiming June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month. The book follows a prince who falls in love with a knight after defeating a dragon.
However, parents with children who attend the school including Janelle Anderson felt it was inappropriate to read the book to the entire student population. While Anderson stresses she wishes all gay individuals success and is glad they can get married, she also describes Pride as a so-called political movement.
"I thought that was a very controversial choice to read at an elementary school level and not give parents the option to opt-out or give parents a warning," Janelle Anderson told WUSA9. "Some romantic issues or sexual issues should be dealt with at home because gay marriage can be a matter of religion."
Anderson posted her concerns with a video link of the librarian reading the book with a caption that said, "Force-feeding gay romance books to kids."
When WUSA9 asked if her opinion would differ if the characters were straight, Anderson said literature with romance of any kind doesn't belong in elementary schools. In her words, stories such as Snow White and Sleeping Beauty make her cringe.
Meanwhile, other parents were quick to defend the librarian amid calls for her termination.
"Pride month is about visibility so reading a story with gay characters in it just makes sense," former PWCS teacher Rebecca Anderson said. "I think it had nothing to do with sex and it had nothing to do with anything else other than visibility. There's no difference. Love is love."
Daniel Hays of AGLA, a drag queen who reads stories to children, applauded the librarian's actions.
"Education is usually one of those key ways to advance society further with actual acceptance and inclusivity," Hays said. "These kind of things are very important to have all different views and approaches presented in schools in age-appropriate ways so children can be exposed to all things and thereby, become better critical learners."
Principal Dr. Kristin Bock stressed the school is committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students. In the letter to parents, Bock said, "While individuals have a right to disagree with the material, intimidation of Marshall staff and insinuated threats against them will not be tolerated. While we have no reason to believe there is any current threat to our school, we will continue to work with PWCS Risk Management and with law enforcement and report such concerns, as necessary."
Books can be challenged and reviewed, Bock added.
Read the principal's full statement below:
Dear Marshall Elementary School Families:
Our school is committed to being “a caring and supportive community, developing a strong foundation for success.” Additionally, our school is a “No Place for Hate” school. One aspect of these commitments is ensuring we provide an environment that is inclusive and welcoming for all students.
Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) does not discriminate in employment nor in the provision of educational programs, services, and activities on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions including lactation, age, marital status, veteran status, disability, genetic information or any other basis prohibited by law.
The Prince William County School Board proclaims June 2022 to be LGBTQ+ PRIDE MONTH and urges our citizens to join us in celebrating our students and staff, regardless of gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. On Friday, in recognition of this recognized month, our school read aloud an age-appropriate book that celebrated the bravery of a knight and prince who fight a dragon, marry, and are celebrated with inclusion in their community.
Over the weekend, some individuals in our school community expressed concern regarding this book. Under PWCS Regulation 653-1, books may be challenged and then will be reviewed. For those who feel compelled to avail themselves of this procedure, they have a right to do so.
While individuals have a right to disagree with the material, intimidation of Marshall staff and insinuated threats against them will not be tolerated. While we have no reason to believe there is any current threat to our school, we will continue to work with PWCS Risk Management and with law enforcement and report such concerns, as necessary.
We thank our families for their collaboration in making our school a place where everyone is welcome.
Thank you for your support as we look forward to the successful final days of the school year.
Dr. Kristin Bock