The Howard County chapter of Moms for Liberty wants sexually explicit books off school library shelves, and they’re enlisting the “mastermind” behind Carroll County’s successful book-ban campaign to help it do that.

Howard’s chapter of the conservative parents group announced its campaign to challenge school books on its website in an advertisement for a Feb. 26 event featuring Jessica Garland, the vice chair of Carroll’s Moms for Liberty chapter, as the guest speaker.

“We want to get sexually explicit content out of HCPSS!” its website states. “Come out and learn how you can help us in this fight! Jessica is the mastermind behind the successful BOOK CAMPAIGN in Carroll County.”

Garland led a monthslong effort to flood the Carroll school system with requests to remove books her group deemed inappropriate from school libraries. That prompted the superintendent last fall to take more than 50 books off the shelves until they could be reviewed by a committee, and the school board voted unanimously in January to tighten its library and textbook selection policy.

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Both moves caused an uproar among parents and educators who criticized the school system for giving a small group undue influence over school reading materials. Some parents also noted that many of the challenged titles were written by authors of color or featured LGBTQ characters.

Like Carroll, Howard County has a procedure in place if the public disagrees with what’s on school library shelves. The school system has an appointed resource reevaluation committee with at least one student, parents and educators who decide whether approved library and curriculum instruction materials should stay on the shelf after a student or parent requests its removal.

The requestor can appeal the committee’s decision to the school board.

Jennifer Mallo, Howard’s board chair, said the board wouldn’t entertain a campaign like the one in Carroll County.

“I don’t believe this board is interested in restricting access to materials with adult themes because we know they have been vetted ... by our subject matter experts,” she told The Banner. She noted there are reliable standards in place for selecting instruction materials and library books.

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Mallo said Moms for Liberty requested board members remove certain books from school libraries two years ago, but the books remained. She also noted that when a Moms for Liberty member spoke at a recent school board meeting, they received a negative reaction from the audience.

“You never know what can happen, but I believe this is a board that is committed to diverse and inclusive materials,” Mallo said.

Howard County’s Moms for Liberty chapter did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon.

Garland told The Banner that she plans on showing the Howard chapter the process she and fellow members used to challenge certain books found in school libraries. Moms for Liberty used, a parent-run book review website that flags excerpts the group says children shouldn’t read, and searched the school system’s database to see if that book was in a Carroll school library.

Garland said their book fight isn’t over. Not all the books they challenged were removed, so now they have to “backtrack.”

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This isn’t the first time Carroll’s chapter has been asked about their success, according to Garland.

“I think a lot of chapters look to Carroll because we have a very reasonable board,” she said.

Board members listen to their concerns and make sure they are addressed, Garland added. However, when surrounding counties tried to do the same, “none of them were as lucky.” When it comes to Howard, Garland thinks it’ll be an uphill battle.

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