Northern Virginia continues to be a battleground between parents and their school boards over what should be taught in public schools. One of the latest incidents involves books in the libraries of Fairfax County Public Schools that contain graphic depictions of sex between children and adults.
Stacy Langton, a Fairfax County mother, made headlines after she read aloud and showed images from two of the books, “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe and “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison, during a school board meeting.
Although officials removed the books temporarily from school libraries, Langton says she is still concerned that children will be permanently affected by the obscene pictures.
“You’re going to accidentally have your child stumble across this and open [it] up. And once you see this, you can’t unsee these images,” she says.
Langton joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to talk about that fateful school board meeting and the larger issue of such books being offered in public school libraries in the first place.
We also cover these stories:
- Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., says he won’t agree to more than $1.5 trillion of fellow Democrats’ $3.5 trillion social welfare spending bill.
- A Colorado woman is told she would be unable to receive a lifesaving kidney transplant unless she gets a COVID-19 vaccination.
- The national average for a gallon of gas hits $3.22, the highest since October 2014.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Doug Blair: Our guest today is Stacy Langton, a mom from Fairfax County, Virginia, who went in front of her school board to criticize the board for allowing books with sexually explicit and pedophilic content contained within. Stacy, welcome to the show.
Stacy Langton: Thanks for having me.
Blair: Of course. Before we get into the school board meeting, I would like to know a little bit more about what these books were that you objected to at the school board meeting and why you objected to them.
Langton: Well, I guess you’re asking me how did I become aware of them in the first place, right? Because that’s the thing, I didn’t know about it. I don’t know many parents who would have any way of finding out these kinds of things because when was the last time you walked into your child’s school library? I’ve never done that before.
So it came about, in terms of just the awareness, by seeing some of the other parent school board meeting videos that seemed to be going viral.
It was about three weeks ago, I saw the first video, which … I believe it was Hudson, Ohio, outside of Akron. And that surrounded some sort of sexually explicit high school literature book. And it had very inappropriate assignments that were being given to the kids. And I guess parents figured it out or whatever, and the mayor sat down and said to the school board, “You all have a choice. This is pornography. I’ve consulted a judge. You can either resign or we’ll bring charges against you.”
When I saw that story, I was like, “Wow. What’s going on? That’s crazy.” Then you kind of go on with your life. And I’m a very busy mom. I have six kids and didn’t think much of it. And then maybe two or three days later, there comes another story. And this second story was the video of this mom who went to her school board in Leander, Texas.
And that mom actually did more than what I did because she brought these two particular books. And that was how I got titles, because she named the books, she showed the books, she put up the titles or whatever. And they gave her more time. We only get two minutes in Fairfax. She was given three minutes. So she read a whole lot more out of that book. And it was cringe-inducing. It was really painful to listen to this poor woman.
I thought, “Well, this is just bananas. What is going on? This is the second one. And holy cow, the things she read.” And I thought, “I’m going to go look those two titles up,” because now you start to get concerned and think, “Is this going on in my backyard?”
Our kids here in Fairfax County have school-issued laptops. So I went to my son and said, “Can we punch in this author’s name in the library interface?” And he said, “Yeah,” and we punched it in. And sure enough, they both come right up. And I thought, “Wow, OK. They’re there. That’s weird.”
And I thought, “Well, I’m not going to take her word for it. I need to go get them and see for myself,” because I’m not just going to go off half—pardon the pun, I didn’t mean it that way, but it was too late. That came out of my mouth and I was like, “Oh, I shouldn’t have said that.” But no, because that’s literally what is in the book. That is literally the words I had to say.
So when you see it … now you’re faced with the fact that this is actually worse than you could have ever imagined. It’s a slap in the face. And when I saw the books and I saw the materials in person, it ruined my day. It literally ruined my day and I thought, “Well, I have to go and speak,” because I wasn’t aware this is going on. And I think I’m a fairly involved mom in my kids’ lives, and I thought, “If I don’t know, there are probably most parents who don’t know.” And that’s why I went and signed up to speak at the board meeting.
Blair: Now, these books, were they targeted to younger kids or high schoolers? What ages were these books available to in the Fairfax County Public School libraries?
Langton: Yeah, so, you’re talking about access and age range in terms of the access. So at my kid’s school, it’s a high school, so it’s ninth through 12th. But I looked it up in the system in several other schools that are near me, and one of them is Robinson, which, Robinson Secondary School is a combined middle school/high school. So at that school, it’s available, now you’re getting down into seventh and eighth graders too, so that’s even younger.
And then as far as the physical location of the books in the library, this is an important thing. They had a big display down the center walkway. There were many titles on that display, and one of the books was there with that group of books. And I could tell just by looking at the dust jackets that there’s probably similar material inside some of those other books, but I wasn’t there to check out every book and sit there and pour through every book.
So I haven’t done that, but the Kobabe book, which is the one that is an illustrated book—it’s a graphic novel, which is a fancy word for comic book. The librarian said to me, “Hey, it’s not here. It should be here on this display, but it’s not.” She said, “Let’s go over to the comic book section and look for it there.” So we walked over all the way across the library to another section and lo and behold, there it is on the shelf with the comic books.
So that means here’s where every little boy’s favorite books are, which is DC Comics, Marvel Comics, “The Avengers,” “Black Panther,” “Batman and Robin,” whatever, and oh, next to that is this. And you’re going to accidentally have your child stumble across this and open it up. And once you see this, you can’t unsee these images.
Blair: Right. Well, I think that’s fascinating, because from what it sounds like you’re saying, this wasn’t something that they were hiding off in a corner. It was very prominently available. This wasn’t, again, something that was sort of like, oh, you had to seek it out. It was, “Here, welcome to the library, there’s the book.”
Langton: Yeah. And they were proud of the display. That’s the thing, they’re proud of this, which is shameful.
Blair: Right. So now that we have a little background on the books, would you be able to briefly recount the school board meeting for our listeners who haven’t seen the video? What happened at that meeting?
Langton: Well, I read the material aloud and I showed the images to the board. And when I did that … well, first of all, I got interrupted by one of the board members who said, “Ma’am, there’s children in the room.” And I’m [like], “Yes, exactly.” I didn’t and say that, but I mean, that was my thought, “Thank you, because you’re making my point for me.”
And then as I continued and I said where these materials were available, the other schools, another board member interrupted and she said, “Ma’am, it’s for high school students.” And I thought, “Well, OK, but that’s not OK either. But no, actually, you’re wrong. It’s not just high school students because it’s at Robinson, and Robinson has middle schoolers.”
And then they cut my mic and they cut the feed so there was no more camera at that point, because it is filmed and they’re broadcasting it out into the community via some cable access channel and then I think they do a livestream on YouTube. So they cut the feed and they cut my mic. And that was the end of it.
So I wasn’t allowed to finish my full two minutes and say everything I wanted to say, and the last part of it was very important. I wanted to say, “This is actually illegal. And here’s the code on the books in Virginia, which says this is illegal.” And I read the code and I wanted to say that if you guys are responsible for this, then you should be charged because it’s against the law.
Blair: I’m so glad you brought that up, because this story was so fascinating to me because it wasn’t just a school board member. It was the chair of the board. It was Stella Pekarsky who claimed that this was an inappropriate thing to read aloud to children because they were present. So it sounds like this happened twice.
What did you think when Ms. Pekarsky said that? And then what did you think when the other person told you, “There are high schoolers here”? What did you think when they started to cut your mic? How did that make you feel?
Langton: Well, it made me angry because I can see the red clock on the wall which shows you your time, and I knew I wasn’t out of time. I could see that they’re trying to stop me from finishing my time. And it made me angry because I was like, “No, that’s not fair.”
By the way, this isn’t a back and forth. These rules that they’ve set up, it’s two ways. The rules are that they’re supposed to listen to the presentation, as are the audience members. Everyone is supposed to be respectful and polite and quiet and listen to the speaker’s presentation. And they were not obeying the rules that they made. It was incredibly rude, it was incredibly disrespectful. They always talk about they want respect and decorum and all of this, and it’s just nonsense. And they didn’t provide me with that.
And seeing the clock and going, “Oh wait, I’m not done,” I just thought, “No, you know what? I’m going to stand there and I’m going to finish what I’m trying to say and you people are going to listen to this because it’s wrong that you’re trying to stop me.” And that’s kind of why I stood my ground and I mean, it really incensed me.
Blair: Now, what did you do after the school board meeting?
Langton: I went to see them the next day. I went to the superintendent’s office. I tried to see Dr. Scott Brabrand the next day and he wasn’t in.
So I haven’t heard from them. I haven’t heard from anybody. I have no accountability, I have no answers, nobody’s reached out to me to explain how this happened in the first place. Those are some things I would really like to know. Whose decisions are these? Who’s putting this stuff there? How does the approval process happen? I know nothing. I would love to know these things. And I’m just getting nowhere with that right now.
The principal of the school didn’t see me the next day, but I persisted. I went again on Monday and she did see me on Monday. And she said, “Well, we’ve started this review process and we’re forming a committee and you can throw your name in the hat to be a part of the committee because we’re going to choose a couple of parents randomly.”
And I was like, “Maybe I ought to be on the committee to review it, because I’m the only one who has reviewed the materials at this point,” but it doesn’t work that way. It’s random. So I probably won’t be a part of that process.
By the way, the email said, “And we’re choosing two students to participate in the committee, but they have to be legal [18-year-old] adults due to the nature of the material.” And I said to Maureen Keck, the principal, I said, “Do you even hear yourselves?” I said, “That’s preposterous.” I said, “You’re going to have students who are legal adults to examine pornography to determine if it’s OK to show to children?”
Blair: Seems slightly messed up.
Langton: It’s nonsensical. I mean, it’s illogical.
Blair: It doesn’t seem to track. Speaking of other parents maybe that would be joining this board, has there been a response from other parents in Fairfax County to incidents like these? Have you received a lot of support from the other parents in the community?
Langton: Oh, it’s just wall-to-wall positive response, wall-to-wall positive. I mean, it’s kind of a funny thing because the response has been so overwhelming. I mean, everywhere I go, people are thanking me for what I did and calling me brave and saying it was very courageous. And people go, “You’re my hero.” And I mean, it’s nice to hear that, but I didn’t do this thinking, like, “Oh, I’m going to go and be a hero.” That wasn’t why I did this. I did this because I thought other parents need to know what the hell is going on, and that was it.
I never thought it was going to blow up and turn into this sort of national conversation. But maybe that’s what needed to happen, because this is the thing: It is not a Fairfax County problem, it’s not a Loudoun County problem. I am getting materials sent to me by parents all over the country because they all woke up and now they’re examining their kids’ school materials. They’re looking in their kids’ backpacks and they’re sending me stuff that would curl your hair.
Blair: What? I mean, I guess we don’t want to get too explicit, but is this something that is on the same level as the books that you found in Fairfax?
Langton: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Yep. So it’s a national problem. This is a national problem. So it’s good that maybe it happened the way it did, because it’s going to help illuminate that part of what’s happening that maybe parents weren’t aware of.
And I haven’t had time to, [but] what I really want to do is I’m kind of keeping aside all of these other materials that kids have in other school districts, and I need to punch those titles and those authors into my son’s computer again and go, “Well, are these books all at Fairfax High School? Because, well, they might be in FCPS also.”
It’s terrible. It’s absolutely terrible.
Blair: Switching gears slightly, the Department of Justice recently announced that it’s going to begin investigating what it calls threats against teachers and school boards that refer specifically to these encounters between parents and school administrators. The framing of threats against these boards has kind of come up as controversial. How does the framing of this issue by the Department of Justice make you feel?
Langton: Well, personally, it’s shocking to me. When I saw the DOJ’s announcement two nights ago, very shocking and alarming. And I certainly am not advocating anybody to do anything violent. And I didn’t do anything violent. I walked into a room and I stood at a podium and I exercised my right to free speech and I read aloud from some school library materials. That is what I did.
Now, if you have parents who are doing other things, like I’ve seen on some of the news, they’re showing clips of people staking out board members’ houses and I don’t know, protesting outside of their house or assaulting them in the parking lot or following them to their car, whatever. That’s wrong. People shouldn’t do that. That’s not what it means to go and address your school board about a problem.
But the DOJ shouldn’t be mobilizing the FBI against parents who want to have a say in what their kids are taught at school, because there is no other mechanism for us to interface with the school system. This is it. This is how I go and say, “Hey, everyone, we have a problem here. Can we look into this? There’s something going on. Can we please get some action on this?” That’s what the school board meeting is for. So the DOJ shouldn’t be sending FBI agents to come and talk to me and parents who exercise their First Amendment rights at a school board meeting.
Blair: In a response from the sort of other side of the aisle, there was an article in the Washington Blade, which is an LGBT targeted magazine, where Robert Rigby, who is the co-president of the Fairfax Public Schools Pride, an LGBT organization, who claim that you guys are misinformed about these books and that they don’t actually depict child-adult sexual relationships. So here’s his quote. He says, “I have read them from cover to cover and this is simply not true.” Responses to that criticism?
Langton: No, I mean, that’s just false. You can look at the materials. And I turned in a copy of the materials on a handout to the board that night. So I read aloud and I showed some images and that was all printed up on a piece of paper because you’re allowed to submit your presentation to the board members, and then it goes into the permanent record of the meeting. So you can go and look at the materials.
And this is not ambiguous. You’re not going to look at these pictures and go, “Oh no, maybe, maybe that’s questionable.” No, no, no. It’s straight up pornography, XXX, 100%, and that’s not debatable.
So I don’t know what Robert Rigby is talking about. And it’s the same thing with the written passages from the novel, because one of them is just a regular novel. When you read this material aloud, or on the page, I should say, it’s pornographic. This is not in question. And for him to sort of try to say it’s not and he’s reviewed it, I don’t know how you could say that. He’s literally defending the indefensible.
And the other thing that bothers me about the attacks coming from someone like Robert Rigby, who is associated with the LGBTQ community, is that I have said from the beginning in every interview I’ve given, this isn’t about, “I’m here to bash gays or bash trans people,” or whatever. I would’ve come to that meeting and said every single word I said if the people and the characters depicted in the materials were man and woman. You see what I’m saying? If it had been “heterosexual pornography,” I would’ve showed up and said exactly everything I said.
This is not about the gender of the people depicted in the pornography. This is not about the sexual orientation of the people depicted in the pornography. It is about the fact that it is pornography. And the pedophilia images in particular just add an extra layer of evil to this because that’s, well, it’s against the law.
Blair: As a follow-up question on that topic, do you think that this is a subject that kids should be learning about in schools at all? Is there a way that this topic could have been addressed appropriately as opposed to the way it was addressed in these books?
Langton: What is the topic that you think would be addressed appropriately?
Blair: I suppose human sexuality, or finding yourself. I guess the LGBT community seems to be claiming that this is a book about finding who you are as a person, or coming of age.
Langton: OK. Yeah. No, I see. I know what you’re saying. OK, so here’s my answer to that. I would say this, I am not looking to go into Fairfax High School’s library and take a flamethrower to their LGBTQ book collection.
If you want to have a biography about, let’s say, Freddie Mercury—he’s a gay man who is one of the greatest singer-songwriters who ever lived. And that’s wonderful. And if somebody wrote a book about him and his journey or whatever, that’s great, but it doesn’t have to be pornographic. And hey, I might even want to read that book.
Or let’s say if Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner has written a book about her journey to becoming trans and whatever, I might want to read that book too. There’s nothing wrong with that if you want to have that book, but it doesn’t have to be pornographic.
Blair: So, the two books that you mentioned in the school board meeting have been removed from Fairfax County school libraries, according to reporting from the area.
Langton: No, no, no. Let’s be precise, shall we? They are not removed. They are temporarily suspended from circulation. So that means it’s undergoing a review process. They’re not removed. I don’t like people using that word, because you know what might happen? These books, they might review them and go, “No, we’re OK with that. We think it’s cool and we’re going to put them back.”
So no, they are not removed. They are temporarily suspended from circulation while they conduct the review. I have no idea how long that process will take and I have no idea what will be the result at the end of it. They may very well put those books right back on the shelves. So, no, they are not removed.
Blair: So then where do we go from here? How does victory against this content come about?
Langton: Well, I think you have to get at the answers I still don’t have, which is, where did this content come from? And those who are responsible need to be the ones who answer for it. There has to be accountability. This should not be happening in our schools. Our children should not be subjected to this type of material.
And I pointed out to The Washington Post reporter that this is similar, I think, in a sense, to sexual harassment laws, because if you were a man who worked for a corporation and you went into work and you took these images that I took to the school board and you showed them to a female co-worker, you would get written up for sexual harassment and you might even lose your job.
And the way sex harassment law works, there are laws that say you are creating a hostile work place. So in essence, what’s happening to our kids is they are being subjected to this pornography at school. It’s a form of sexual harassment, and you’re creating a hostile learning environment, and that needs to stop. That just has to stop. And that’s where the accountability has to happen.
Blair: Well, Stacy, I think you’ve given us a lot to think about. As we wrap-up this interview, what would be your advice to some of the other parents across the nation who are concerned about books like this at their children’s schools?
Langton: Stand up, parents. Stand up. Get involved in your kids’ lives. Take a look at what’s going on in their curriculum. If you’re not paying attention, you need to be paying attention. And if you find the same kind of things that I found, then don’t be afraid to stand up. Don’t be intimidated by [Attorney General] Merrick Garland from the DOJ. Go [stand] up to your school board and let them know that you think this needs to stop.
Blair: That was Stacy Langton, a mom from Fairfax County, Virginia, who went in front of her school board to criticize the board for allowing books with sexually explicit and pedophilic content contained within. Stacy, thank you so much for your time.
Langton: Thanks for having me.
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