Stop Politicizing Children’s Programming at the Rye Library: Reject Drag Queen Story Hour

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Stop Politicizing Children’s Programming at the Rye Library: Reject Drag Queen Story Hour

To: The Board of Trustees of the Rye Free Reading Room & The Auxiliary Board of the Rye Free Reading Room

We, the undersigned, submit this petition to express our strong opposition to the Rye Free Reading Room’s (the “Library’s”) promotion of politically charged and sexually oriented programming for children, most especially Drag Queen Story Hour (“DQSH”). 

The Library’s support of partisan political activities violates its Policy for Public Use of Library Facilities (“Public Use Policy”).  Rye is proud to be a tight-knit community woven from people and families of diverse beliefs, perspectives, and values.  In a national climate of polarization, what uniquely binds us is our respect for one another and love for our town.  Alongside Rye’s many wonderful clubs, places of worship and community organizations where we express, celebrate and debate our differences, there are a few coveted public spaces where we carve out politically-sourced conflict in an effort to accomplish a larger community goal.  The Library is one of those places, and the goal is intellectual discovery and “lifelong learning for Rye residents of all ages and interests” (Library Mission Statement).  Politically charged programming, especially one-sided programming, discourages library use and financial support at a time when the Library should be encouraging literacy.  To that end, we endorse the Library’s Public Use Policy, which prohibits the Library’s promotion of partisan political activities.

Library events promoting any sexual ideology, especially when they target children, are political.  One need not look any further than the severe division in our community over the Library’s proposed DQSH, which invites adult entertainers dressed in drag to read books to children ages three to eight, lead crafts and songs, and facilitate discussions that support and normalize a controversial sexual ideology.  This proposed event has resulted in hundreds of letters and calls to the Library, online petitions, and social media uproar (including online and in person exchanges that have been less than charitable).  Overnight, DQSH turned our town’s beloved Library into an ideological battlefield, drawing interest from national political organizations on both sides of the aisle.  While there certainly is a time and place for debating sexual ideology, our children’s reading room is not that venue.  

Discarding the Library’s Public Use Policy to allow sexually oriented programming for children is the wrong decision for Rye.  To the extent the Library insists on hosting politically charged and ideologically lopsided events in violation of its Public Use Policy, the Library opens itself up as a publicly funded political forum and, as such, all ideologies of Rye taxpayers must be represented on equal footing.  That said, the undersigned oppose transforming the children’s reading room (and the Library, more broadly) into a political football for proponents of various sexual ideologies.  Permitting unfamiliar adults to instruct preschool-aged children regarding sexual concepts well beyond their understanding is both confusing and irresponsible.  Such discussions fall within the purview of parents, and in a public space, absolute avoidance of any sexual discussion with strangers is paramount for children’s safety.  

Mindful of the above, we strongly urge the Library to exercise its power and judgment – laid out in its Public Use Policy – to cease promotion of politically charged programming (sexually oriented or otherwise) for children.  Moreover, we demand that the Board of Trustees hold its Library Director, Auxiliary Board and any current or future committees to the highest level of impartiality when planning and proposing future events, as required by Article X of the Library’s By-Laws.