Central Bucks librarian says he was directed to remove Holocaust survivor’s quote from window for violating advocacy policy – The Philadelphia Inquirer

The quote reads, in part: “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.”
As she studied Elie Wiesel’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in 1986, Matt Pecic’s daughter, a ninth grader in the Central Bucks School District, sent him a quote by the Holocaust survivor that she said made her think of her father:
“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” said the author of more than 50 books, including Night.
“When your daughter says that … I’m like, that’s a great quote to hang up,” said Pecic, a high school librarian in the district.
Pecic displayed the quote on his library’s window at Central Bucks South on Monday. On Wednesday morning, he said, his principal asked him to take it down, saying it violated a new policy that bans staff from advocating beliefs on “partisan, political, or social policy issues” to students.
Pecic said he asked what would happen if he didn’t comply, prompting an “awkward silence.” He was told he would be notified later of consequences, he said.
At the end of the school day, he decided to take the quote down. “It broke my heart,” he said.
By midday Thursday, Pecic said his principal told him he could restore the quote, which he planned to do.
The district said in a statement Thursday that Night had long been part of the district’s curriculum, and that Pecic “was asked by the administration to present the quote in conjunction with Mr. Wiesel’s book in order to promote educational inquiry and student interest in reading the novel, or to take it down.”
“We regret that the decision was made to remove it,” the district said, adding that it had asked that it be reposted “and in a manner that promotes not only the importance of the novel, but continued awareness and education surrounding the Holocaust and its National Day of Remembrance this coming Friday. The district apologizes for any hurt or concerns this has caused, particularly for those in the Jewish community.”
The episode raised questions about the district’s implementation of the new policy, which members of the school board’s majority have said is meant to ensure balance in classrooms — and that “students learn best when they learn how to think, not what to think.” Critics have accused the board of seeking to suppress discussion around LGBTQ issues — including by banning Pride flags — at a time when the district is facing a federal investigation into alleged discrimination against LGBTQ students.
Teachers, meanwhile, also have worried about a chilling effect, saying it isn’t clear what is or isn’t tolerated under the new policy. The district’s superintendent, Abram Lucabaugh, has been holding town hall meetings with staff members, “providing clarity so that teachers can move forward with confidence in their jobs,” he said in a statement last week.
“This is exactly the type of censorship we feared would be the consequence of an overbroad and harmful policy,” said Andrew Goretsky, regional director of the Philadelphia Anti-Defamation League. He said that while the group was relieved that the quote could be reposted, the initial removal was “deeply disappointing,” especially ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“This decision is unfortunately ill-timed, and risks exacerbating the chilling effect that policies like these will have on speech in K-12 schools, stifling student learning and growth in the process,” Goretsky said.
This week, the Wiesel quote was the only one Pecic had posted on his window. But he said that he had been considering quotes Thursday to post in honor of Black History Month, and that some were “very powerful.”
“We’ll see what happens when these quotes get posted,” he said.


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