School board president Karen Smith is officially this year’s Coolest Karen. After defeating a slew of Moms for Liberty-endorsed candidates, Smith celebrated by swearing in on a stack of banned books.
Smith, president of the Central Bucks school board in Pennsylvania, was elected for the first time in 2015 as a Republican. She switched to Democrat in 2021 when the school board denied a counselor’s request for training on trans inclusivity.
“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.”
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While she worried her party affiliation swap would go over poorly with local Democrats, she explained “they were watching carefully the actions I took over the past two years … They valued that, not my previous party affiliation.”
This was a wild ride.
Those two years were critical. During that time, anti-LGBTQ+ groups campaigned vigorously, transforming the school board with 6-3 Republican majority. Once in power, they passed a policy prohibiting books with what they termed “sexualized content,” leading to a wave of book challenges.
In the recent election cycle, Moms for Liberty had their candidates pulverized at polls across the country. In Central Bucks county, that meant the school board was flipped 6-3 in favor of Democrats.
Smith celebrated her third term as school board president and the defeat of Moms for Liberty by swearing in on a stack of previously banned books. These included Night by Elie Wiesel, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart, All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M Johnson, Flamer by Mike Curato, and Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin.
“I’m not particularly religious,” Smith said. “The Bible doesn’t hold significant meaning for me, and given everything that has occurred in the last couple of years, the banned books, they do mean something to me at this point.”
She added that she chose the books to show “the commitment I’ve had to fighting for the books, and for our students’ freedom to read.”
But Smith has done much more than put on a show. As soon as the new school board was assembled, they suspended the previous board’s anti-LGBTQ+ policies. As for the remaining list of challenged books, “they’re definitely not going to be reviewed at this point,” Smith said.
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