Carroll County Times

Decision made on five of 58 books threatened with removal from Carroll County school libraries

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Carroll County public schools officials have made a decision about five of the 58 books that the superintendent ordered to be removed from library shelves last month amid challenges from the Carroll County chapter of Moms for Liberty.

“Slaughterhouse Five,” by Kurt Vonnegut has been permanently removed from middle school libraries, but retained in high schools. Four other titles have been retained for high school libraries: “Tilt,” by Ellen Hopkins; “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky; “The Sun and her Flowers,” by Rupi Kaur; and “Not that Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture,” by Roxane Gay, according to Director of Curriculum and Instruction Steve Wernick.


Brenda Bowers, communications coordinator at Carroll County Public Schools, said the five books are not yet back on shelves, as they are still in the appeals process. The decisions may be appealed to the Board of Education within 30 days, Bowers said.

Every member of the Reconsideration Committee, which evaluates book removal requests, must read each book that is under review, and the committee meets every three to five weeks, Bowers said. It is not known how long it will take for the current list of book removal requests to be reviewed.


Kit Hart, chairperson of Carroll County Moms for Liberty, confirmed that all 58 requests for book reconsideration came from members of her group.

“Each and every one of them depicts graphic sex or rape through visuals and or textual descriptions,” Hart said during public comment at a July school board meeting. “That is the only criteria we chose for selecting these books. When we began exposing passages from these books to the public, parents were appalled.”

Since the requests were made, some parents and librarians opposed to the removals have shown up at school board meetings.

Carroll’s debate echoes similar discussions going on in other Maryland counties and around the U.S.

Donna Mignardi, president of the Maryland Association of School Librarians, said the group is working to avoid book bans in Carroll County, which she said amounts to censorship.

“Book challenges and attempts at censorship have become more frequent in the past two years. These challenges are not isolated to Carroll County,” Mignardi said. “MASL has supported school librarians facing book challenges in Wicomico County, Worcester County, Calvert County, Somerset County, and Baltimore County, just to name a few.

“There are several counties in Maryland who are experiencing continual challenges to books in their school libraries by groups such as Moms for Liberty, Power2Parents, and community members who are not even associated with the school system nor have students in the school systems.”

The librarian association joined with two other statewide groups — The Maryland Library Association, and Citizens for Maryland Libraries — to also oppose the reassignment of the longtime Carroll County library director and directives for school librarians mandating what books they can choose to add to shelves.


Kathleen Brunnett had served as the library supervisor for Carroll County Public Schools since at least 2019, according to State Department of Education records, but in August she was reassigned to teach English at Northwest Middle School. Supervisor of Elementary Education Bruce Lesh is now listed as overseeing media specialists.

Spokesperson Carey Gaddis, said the school system would not comment on Brunnett’s reassignment as “it would be considered a personnel issue.”

In her former position, Brunnett organized the county school board’s Reconsideration Committee.

“The Maryland Association of School Librarians is deeply concerned that the school library supervisor was removed from her position and reassigned to the classroom,” the association said in a Sept. 13 open letter to McCabe and the school board.

Gaddis said normally about two books per year are directed to the Reconsideration Committee for review. The committee consists of three principals, three librarians, three parents, three teachers and three students, all appointed by the superintendent.

Per district policy, books requested for removal remain in stock and on reading lists until the committee reviews the texts in a process that can take 30 days. This school year, McCabe went against district policy and removed the books under consideration prior to review.


McCabe defended that decision in an email to Baltimore Sun Media Aug. 31 as a preventive measure against phone calls from concerned parents. “The decision to temporarily remove the books addressed is an operational issue. We anticipated there would be a large number of parents contacting our schools,” McCabe wrote.

According to the Sept. 13 letter from the three statewide library groups, Carroll’s school librarians were ordered to keep a signed document for every book they purchase and are now being held accountable for books’ contents. The letter states that Carroll school librarians are required to fill out a sheet of paper (known as Appendix J) certifying that each book they select for the library meets specific criteria, including that it “does not include any sexually explicit content.”

“It is the procedure we have always had in place, it was just not in paper form,” Gaddis said about Appendix J. “For any book purchased, Media Specialists have to keep this document in a binder … so that it is available for review if a book does come up for reconsideration. If the form is not completed, the media specialist cannot purchase the book.”

Moms for Liberty’s playbook

The Carroll County branch of Moms for Liberty, a conservative political organization, has followed a national playbook of backing school board candidates who support the group’s views.

The first two Moms for Liberty chapters started in 2021 in Brevard and Indian River counties in Florida, harnessing energy from parents against masking and school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, it has focused on removing books it deems as inappropriate, such those with LGBTQ themes, from schools.

This effort has gained steam across the U.S. and Maryland.


In recent years, a network of activists and civic groups lobbied to remove the graphic novel “Gender Queer” from shelves in Baltimore County schools. Book-banning debates also flared in Baltimore City, Howard County and several Eastern Shore jurisdictions.

In Frederick County, a committee consisting of 59 educators, parents, students and community members, has spent most of this year reviewing 35 challenged school library books. School board candidate Cindy Rose spurred the review process late last year, by filing a formal complaint with the school district, alleging the books contained inappropriate material, according to The Frederick News Post. An announcement on the fate of all the books was “expected early in the 2023-24 school year,” according to a news release the Frederick school system sent to the community in mid-June.

At a Harford County school board meeting this month, parents shared concerns about a book review committee, including a lack of transparency by the school board and whether the formation of the panel was driven by Moms for Liberty and its supporters.

“This represents a national movement towards censorship,” Mignardi said. “[The American Library Association] reported book challenges doubled between 2021 and 2022 with most of the titles being challenged focusing on LGBTQIA+ issues and people of color … Removing voices from the library shelves is censorship.”

Rally at school board meeting

For Wednesday’s school board meeting, the Maryland Association of School Librarians urged members to wear black to support the district’s librarians. Dozens were turned away from a full meeting room.

While the topic was not on the agenda and not mentioned by school board members, book bans dominated the public comment period. Two Liberty High School students, Grace Crovo and Precious Akinbode, spoke against censorship while a handful of Moms for Liberty members read aloud book passages depicting sex scenes and sexual conversations.


“The Moms for Liberty don’t care about the safety of our students. They want any student who is not white and who is not straight to feel as unsafe as possible. They want them to not be able to read books that represent themselves,” said Grace Crovo, a senior at Liberty High School in Eldersburg. “They don’t want them to have indicators like pride flags to know they’re safe in this classroom. They are not for liberty or safety or anything like that at all.”

Board President Marsha Herbert, whose term expires next year, did not respond to request for comment.

In a statement, school board member Steve Whisler, who publicly signed a Moms for Liberty pledge during his 2022 campaign for the school board, challenged those who oppose the book removals.

“I sincerely question the judgment and integrity of any academic professional in a K-12 setting who wants to push these materials on students,” Whisler said.