At least one school library in a South Carolina school district restricted access to its online card catalog in order to hide “critical race theory books” from parents, internal documents obtained by the parental rights group Moms for Liberty show.

The school district claims that it required all schools in the district to unlock their catalogs at the beginning of the school year, but the Moms for Liberty leader says at least one catalog remained blocked as late as Feb. 12.

“Instead of listing these books as available in the library, they are making a conscious decision to include them in curriculum read aloud in class so parents don’t know,” Carly Carter, chair of the Anderson County Moms for Liberty chapter, told The Daily Signal in a written statement Wednesday. Carter’s Freedom of Information Act request turned up the documents.

“What’s most insulting here is that their intention is to cut parents out,” Carter added. “They want to expose children to a social curriculum that they don’t want their parents to know anything about. That’s appalling.”

“We had to remove our card catalogs from online, so parents can’t scour it for critical race theory books (sigh),” Jennifer Chesney, the librarian at Powdersville High School in Powdersville, South Carolina, wrote in a March 2022 email.

Critical race theory refers to a lens by which teachers train students to deconstruct American society on the premise that it is systemically racist against black people and in favor of white people. Parents have raised the alarm about lessons that make black students feel oppressed or inferior and white students feel shame for alleged oppression.

Chesney sent that email in response to a request for copies of “The Acorn People,” a book by Ron Jones.

She also sent an email in June 2023 describing the “really weird climate right now with books” in her school district.

“The Moms of Liberty are coming hard at us with book challenges (mind you, the leader of the group doesn’t even have a child in our district – *grrr*), so we’re going to need to tread lightly with our topical choices,” Chesney wrote. “They have their censoring guns loaded.”

She suggested that libraries in the school district focus on books discussing “a current something in the zeitgeist, and then have a nuanced discussion with the class about that book’s particular issue.” She mentioned the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Parents or community members who are easily offended will want to jump on the BLM or LGBTQ+ content, but we’ll be able to point out that was a brief discussion alongside allllllllllll these other current hot topics (with only a snippet of a book read),” Chesney wrote. “I’ve never gotten any push-back on my true crime novels, but then people don’t get upset about violence the way they do [about] race and sexual orientation. *sigh*”

Parents across the country have objected to the presence of books with sexually explicit images in school libraries. Many librarians and left-leaning groups have defended the books, claiming they are necessary for kids who identify as LGBTQ.

“As much as they don’t want to [hear] it, parents should only be allowed to have a say in THEIR children’s access not what is provided to all students access,” Heather Loy, a librarian at Wagener-Salley High School, wrote in February 2022. “Parents should not be included in collection development.”

Tamara Cox, a librarian at Wren High School, referred to “my LGBTQ resource list.”

An Anderson School District One spokesman told The Daily Signal that he cannot comment on emails written by individual employees, but he said the district works with parents and requires schools to make card catalogs available to the public.

“Anderson School District One works closely with parents to provide a high quality education to all students and aims to reflect the values of the entire community,” the spokesman said. He noted that the district “strives to be transparent with our students, parents and community members.”

“Starting in the 2023-2024 school year, the district required schools to make card catalogs available to all students, parents and the general public,” the spokesman added. “Prior to this school year, each school determined their own settings for logging in.”

He insisted that “parents have always had access to the card catalogs through their child’s login and password.” He also claimed that “if a book is on the shelf in our libraries and accessible to students, it is and always has been visible in the card catalog.”

The spokesman noted that “the district also developed an ‘opt-out’ form for parents who wish to limit their child’s access to certain library books or all library books.”

Carter, the Moms for Liberty chapter leader, said that the Wren High School library catalog remains locked.

“The school district claimed that the card catalogs were unlocked,” she told The Daily Signal. “On Feb. 12, we met with 2 individuals and the Wren High School catalog was still locked. Following Feb. 12, we brought it to the school district’s attention and it has since been unlocked.”

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