Book banning among issues discussed at St. Charles candidate forum

Candidates running for the St. Charles Public Library board and the St. Charles Unit District 303 school board tackled the issue of book banning Sunday at a candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County held at the St. Charles Public Library.

Incumbent library board Trustee Karen Kaluzsa along with Bonnie Dauer, Allison Lanthrum and Anthony Catella are running for the two 6-year terms open on the board. Catella attended the forum but did not participate because he did not respond to the league's invitation by its deadline, according to league officials.

Library board candidates were asked by moderator Susan Russo if they supported banning books from public libraries. All of the library board candidates said they do not support banning books.

"In general, I do not support banning books," said Lanthrum, who is the events and program coordinator with the Aurora Public Library District. "I support the freedom to read and the access of information. What I would really like to communicate is that library's materials are carefully, thoughtfully and intentionally added to the collections."

Dauer, who is a member of the American Library Association, also said she is not for banning books.

"There should be some things in the library that offend everyone," she said. "That is one way to expand your mind and you're able to broaden your vision and broaden your opinions."

Kaluzsa also said she doesn't support book banning.

"The library collection does need to reflect the wants and needs of everyone in the community," she said. "We have professional selectors on staff who very carefully and thoughtfully choose the collection."

Three 4-year terms are open on the District 303 school board along with an unexpired 2-year term.

Incumbents Becky McCabe, Joseph Lackner and Matthew Kuschert along with Dolores Van Hiel, Lauren Duddles, Elias Palacios and Barbara Diepenbrock are running for the 4-year terms.

Thomas Lentz, Mike Backer and Richard Rivard are running for the 2-year term.

Similar to the questions asked of library board candidates, school board candidates were asked the question if they supported banning books from public schools.

"I'm not a fan of banning books," Lentz said. "I'm also not of fan of having explicit materials in the elementary schools. So at the board table, I would want to look to protect our students that are in the elementary schools from being exposed to this type of material."

McCabe said she is against banning books, period.

"I think that folks who know the school districts know there is a process for selecting curricular material," she said. "It is done very carefully with great expertise. We have processes in place for families who are uncomfortable with certain materials. Families can opt out."

Palacios said in general, banning books is not the solution.

"However, parents need to have the right to decide which book, which materials their sons and daughters can read or receive," he said. "They are ultimately responsible for how they raise their children."

Rivard said he will not accept banning books at any school in the district.

"Of course, there is an age appropriateness to all of this," he said. "But the curriculum does need to reflect the fact this is a public service. The public is diverse."

Van Hiel said she doesn't believe in book banning, but that the material "has to represent the core curriculum." She said objectionable material should not be put in front of 9- or 10-year-old children.

Backer said the public needs to trust the professionals who are "making choices that are in the best interests of our students."

"We have to trust our educators that we all believe in," he said.

Diepenbrock said there is a difference between "having a book that you must read in class for curriculum and books that are available for you to seek out to read."

Like other candidates, she said the public needs to trust those in charge to determine what is age appropriate for their comprehension.

Duddles, a former teacher, also said she is against banning books.

"I think that not only should we not ban books," she said, "but we also should be very mindful when we're developing the curriculum and trust teachers."

Kuschert said St. Charles School District is not in the business of banning books. At the same time, he said parental involvement is also important.

"Their parents should have some say and do have some say in this district regarding materials that they read and review," Kuschert said.

Lackner said he also is against the idea of banning books.

"I think the level of availability of concepts and content at the public library is a different perspective than that which needs to be taken account in the schools," he said.

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