New superintendent takes over in Central York amid book ban controversy

York

Colorful stack of textbooks on background of blackboard

YORK, Pa. (WHTM) — A new superintendent is taking over the Central York School District as it deals with controversy.

Students have been protesting a book ban that they feel is an attack on diversity. At a board meeting on Monday night parents and students challenged the board to reverse the ban.

“I don’t know what’s going here and I don’t know why all of a sudden you all have your own agendas and are not listening to the entire community. But I respectfully ask you to start looking inward, because there are so many of us that are fed up,” one parent said.

Another speaker said people of color “have been treated terribly throughout American history and that’s something you have to address. You cannot gloss over it. And talking about it doesn’t mean anyone is trying to make white kids feel bad.”

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Board member Veronica Gemma said last fall they decided to put a freeze on using materials from a ‘Diversity Resource List’ because of concerns over some of the things on it.

“This particular book called not my idea literally speaks to whiteness and how bad it is,” Gemma said.

Then in August, an email went out to teachers in the district, telling them they couldn’t use any of those materials in their classroom. That move drew protests from students.

However, Gemma says it’s not a ban. It’s a temporary hold on the resources until the curriculum committee looks over everything. They are waiting to do that until the new superintendent can be part of the discussions.

“I hope that everybody can settle down and be patient because we will be addressing this,” Gemma said.

The board approved Dr. Peter Aiken as the new superintendent at their Monday night meeting. Dr. Aiken spoke with abc27 News about his new position, and we asked him whether he plans to reverse the ban when he starts.

“The first day, no we’re not going to do anything on the first day. As part of my entry plan, I said I’m going to do the four Ls, look listen, learn and lead,” Aiken said.

He says he’s open to having conversations about it but doesn’t want to rush into any decision.

“We don’t need any more controversy sparked,” Aiken said. “What we need to do is come together as a community now and figure out ways that we can rally around each other to heal. I think that’s the most important part.”

Dr. Aiken doesn’t have a specific start date yet but hopes to begin in the new position sometime in November.

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