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Parents React to Pittsford Central School District Banning Books


May 24, 2021

Parents React to Pittsford Central School District Banning Books

On Monday, May 24, members of the Pittsford community noticed an email originating from Melanie Ward, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction for Pittsford Central School District. The email was directed presumably to all Elementary School teachers in the District, “all the K-5 Teams”, as she says in her email. Ms. Ward’s email, dated Thursday, May 20, instructs all the K-5 Teams as follows:

Subject: concerning texts

I want to make you aware that as of this morning, Erin (at my request) posted the following message in all of the K-5 Teams sites regarding two specific books – A Birthday Cake for George Washington and Who Was Harriet Tubman? (from the very popular Who Was… series):

Check your classroom libraries!

As we learn more about diversity and racism, it's important for us to look carefully at the books we use. We are taking a close look at the books in our curriculum, but we also need to think about the books that are on our classroom library shelves.”

As she indicates, Ms. Ward is instructing all Elementary School teachers in the District to: “…think about the books that are on our classroom library shelves.” Why this directive at this time? What “concerning texts” would cause Ms. Ward to issue this order? She continues on her email:

“ These two titles have been brought to our attention because they both contain concerning content and shouldn't be in our classrooms. If you find other titles that marginalize groups of people, use racial slurs, or minimize the impact of racism or slavery; please remove them from your classroom library. Then, please share the titles with all of us! Now that we know better, we will do better... together!”

We now begin to see the context which propelled her to write the email. The context appears to be racism, in general, and slavery in particular. We don’t yet know, exactly, why those two titles caused Ms. Ward to issue her edict. But there is more – Ms. Ward recommends (compels?) her constituents to use a specific tool as a yardstick to measure the worth of all books in classroom libraries. This is the tool she suggested:

(You can find a comprehensive text review tool here if you are interested in this topic: Teaching-Tolerance-Reading-Diversity-Extended-Edition-2016-VFF.pdf (

We looked up the tool, a markable PDF form, which can be filled out by the teacher and the net result is a ‘grade’ or score for the book being examined. Presumably, the teacher could use then their judgement to keep or discard the book. The tool recommended is a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a far-left “civil rights” fund-raising organization which is now mired in a litany of charges of corruption and conflicts including accusations of sexual harassment, racism, and the demonization of all Christian conservative groups.

We at the Frederick Douglass Foundation of New York have serious questions about the judgement of Ms. Ward when compared to her mission in the District. According to the website for Pittsford Schools Curriculum and Instruction, this is purpose of her office:

The mission of our curriculum is to engage all learners in authentic, rigorous learning experiences so that upon graduation students will be able to independently use their learning to achieve their goals and become contributing members of a global society.”

The Pittsford community and the Frederick Douglass Foundation of New York have some questions for the officials of Pittsford Central School District:

· Did Ms. Ward singularly and unilaterally decide that her students are not “able to independently use their learning” as regards the contents of those two books?

· Or worse yet, that not even the teachers whom she mentors in her capacity, are “able to independently use their learning”?

· What is, or has been, the process of deciding which books are included or banned from PCSD’s libraries?

· Is there a review committee? With much talk about diversity (of thought, not just melanin levels) and inclusion (of varying and even dissenting opinions) are parents allowed to participate?

· When an impasse is reached, what’s the process for resolution?

· Has someone compiled a list of acceptable/unacceptable topics or titles? If so, under what auspices?

· Under what authority does Ms. Ward make it clear that she expects teachers to remove other books they feel marginalize groups of people, or use “racial slurs”, or minimize the impact of racism or slavery and share the titles? Who, exactly, defines those terms and decides their fate?

· What’s to stop a teacher or “concerned parent” from having books pulled merely because they’re out of alignment with the politically correct meme of the month?

The members of the Frederick Douglass Foundation of New York strongly recommend that all parents and taxpayers in the PCSD make their voices heard. The action items recommended here are:

· Carefully review and question the agenda of social studies homework or required reading those students bring home.

· Ask students to observe if school faculty or staff are promoting any point of view deemed political including: advocating for BLM or Critical Race Theory, suggesting reparations, promoting the 1619 Project, idolizing controversial figures, advocating socialism, questioning religious affiliations, supporting Comprehensive Sex Education, disparaging Capitalism, etc.

· Attend Board of Education meetings and encourage other parents and taxpayers to actively participate in them.

We hope that our members and interested parties find the above information helpful and we encourage them to contact us at:

Fred Frederick Douglass Foundation of NY

P.O. Box 92172

Rochester, NY 14692

(585) 615-9551


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