When is a ban not a ban? (Attention: Jeff Piccola and the Central York school board)

York Dispatch Editorial Board

"Don't look a gift horse in the mouth."

It's something our parents and grandparents said. Rough translation: Don't examine a good thing too closely.

On Monday, the Central York School District caved under pressure and reversed course on a ban on various teaching materials that silenced black and brown voices.

Yes, that's a good thing.

Never mind that the ban shouldn't have happened in the first place.

Veronica Gemma

But various school board members and their boosters persist in gaslighting the public with statements that their intention was never to ban anything, least of all the work of creators of color.

"To be clear, we have never been a district who bans books, and we do not support banning books," board member Veronica Gemma said at Monday's meeting, despite ultimately voting to rescind the — err — ban.

Jeff Piccola, onetime state senator and current chair of the York County GOP, shared the same sentiment, albeit in a decidedly longwinded and Trumpy fashion. Piccola compensates for his lack of substance with a surplus of words:

"There have been allegations and misreporting about an attempt to ban certain books in the district. This is false. As Republicans, we do not believe in banning books and neither do any of these Republican candidates. That is what communists and fascists do."

This is the point where Mama would've told us: "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth."

But reversing a racist policy isn't a gift.

It's the bare minimum we can expect from our elected officials. And it's clear from comments by the likes of Gemma and Piccola (and so many others) that they'd rather embrace a lie than live their truth.

Jeff Piccola, chairman of the York County Republican Committee.

So let's stare this mare in the choppers.

Call the dentist, we've got a root canal to perform.

Exhibit A: The language of the board's original resolution, passed unanimously back in November.

"It is recommended that the Board approve a written directive to staff to remove the diversity resource list and not allow any resources from this list to be used in any classrooms in the Central York School District and continue to use materials and resources previously in place."

As one famous Shakespeare protagonist once said: "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." (As best we can tell, Romeo and Juliet has not been banned by Central.)

Exhibit B: The original email that sent The York Dispatch on this odyssey.

The original email that raised awareness of Central York School District's ban on materials from creators of color.

There it is, Jeff and Veronica, in black and white.

"Please see the attached list of resources that are not permitted to be utilized in the classroom," Ryan Caufman, the principal of Central York High School, wrote in an Aug. 11 staff-wide email with the subject line: "Banned Resources."

Caufman even reiterated the point to make sure teachers understood: "Please review and double check to make sure that none of these resources are being used."

To be clear, Caufman's probably not a bad guy. He waited a full nine months after the school board's initial ban to break the news to his staff. For his part, he has (perhaps understandably) not responded to our questions about the timeline or his communications with the administration and school board.

In the grand scheme of things, yes, we managed to rid the world of one disastrously stupid policy. The York Dispatch broke the news, then the students themselves led the charge, taking their grievances to the street and to CNN and to our opinion pages.

But there are a lot more racist policies and practices lurking out there. And there are a lot of people willing to straight-up lie about them — whether or not they believe their own malarkey, the result is the same.

Stay vigilant.

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