The Elizabethtown Area School Board last week unanimously endorsed accepting a donation of pocket U.S. Constitutions after several months of discussions surrounding donated educational materials to the district.
With no discussion on the item at the Dec. 20 action meeting, the board accepted the motion to accept the Constitutions donated by Mount Joy Township resident Tom Miller.
According to the district’s Board Policy 702, the school board approves donations which are “considered to be supplemental education resources.”
At the board’s Nov. 22 action meeting, members unanimously approved a motion from Board Vice President Michael Martin to pause future donations of educational materials and purchases of flagged library materials until the district reviews and updates its policies on accepting donations and acquiring resource materials.
But since the pocket Constitutions are considered pamphlets and not books, the board made an exception on a vote to accept them.
The policy review comes on the heels of a controversial vote by the board regarding the book “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” which a parent requested be removed from the combined middle/high school library because of foul language and sexual content. The board voted 6-3 at its Oct. 25 action meeting to retain the book in the library.
Miller, who said he’s lived in the school district for 18 years and is a military veteran, attempted to make donations of several books along with the pocket Constitutions and “Free to Speak” pamphlets at the board’s Nov. 8 workshop meeting. The books included “Identity: The Distinctiveness of You” by Steve Prokopchak, “Zombie Science” by Jonathan Wells and “The College Scam” by Charlie Kirk.
The board tabled the book donation because of the review process and the pamphlet donation because of an updated policy, effective Jan. 1, that prohibits non-school organizations and individuals from distributing non-school materials in the schools.
Miller’s pocket Constitution donation was accepted because of the supplemental educational nature of the material.
At the Dec. 20 board meeting, Miller said he encouraged the district to publish information for the public to know how decisions are made on textbooks, library books and curriculum to be used by the schools.
Miller said his book and pamphlet donations were meant to inform students, teachers, administrators and the school board on the Constitutional rights of free speech and religious expression. He said he hoped the donations would remind teachers and coaches to “share their Judeo-Christian worldview in the classroom and on the field.”
“E-town schools should not be an oppression of faith, but an experience for faith opportunities interwoven in a time spent with friends, faculty, coaches and counselors,” Miller said. “I hope and pray and believe 2023 will be a year of enhanced faith opportunities for E-town schools. And let it begin with us, me and you. I hope you will receive this small gift of light as a tool to help you and to remember the light of the good news of Christ in this season and not keep our faith under a bushel.”
When Miller first brought the donation materials to the Nov. 8 board workshop, Martin said he found the material contained in the book “Identity: The Distinctiveness of You” to be “personally offensive” because he is a gay man.
Martin, who said he is a Christian who attends church every Sunday, said the material in “Identity” was not appropriate for a book in a public-school setting.
“I want our LGBTQ students to feel like they are normal – there’s not something wrong with them,” Martin said. “I don’t want books in our library telling them there is something wrong with them for who they are.”
Martin said he was also torn because he was one of the six board members who voted to allow “Me and Earl” to remain in the library despite some residents objecting to it. He said he would be inclined to allow Miller’s book donations to be approved for the library, but he wanted to first review the donation policy.