New school board president sworn in on stack of banned books

When Karen Smith was sworn in as the newly elected president of Philadelphia's Central Bucks school board on Monday night, she placed her left hand on a stack of frequently banned books instead of a Holy Bible.

Smith was first elected to the board in 2015 as a Republican. She switched parties in 2021 after the board voted against school counselor training to support transgender students. "I thought, 'I can't be a part of these kind of actions,'" Smith told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "The Republican Party has lost its way."

"The banned books mean something to me after all that's happened," she said. "I wanted to make clear my commitment to fighting for them and our students' freedom to read."

Here are the books Smith used in the swearing-in ceremony:

  • Night, by Elie Wiesel: A Holocaust memoir about survival and the importance of free speech.
  • The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison: A Pulitzer Prize-winning novel confronting sexual abuse.
  • Lily and Dunkin, by Donna Gephart: A story about friendship featuring a transgender character.
  • All Boys Aren't Blue, by George M. Johnson: A young adult memoir about growing up Black and queer.
  • Flamer, by Mike Curato: A graphic novel exploring a teenager's identity.
  • Beyond Magenta, by Susan Kuklin: Stories of six transgender teens, highlighting diversity and acceptance.