Trustee and librarian head to head over ‘book burning’ claim

Hope secondary librarian demands apology; trustee stands by his concerns

When teacher-librarian Lenora Poulin gave her presentation to the school board two weeks ago, she walked away feeling confident, happy and proud to be in charge of Hope secondary’s library.

But when she heard what was said about her after leaving that meeting, those strong feelings of pride turned to anger.

Poulin found out that later in the regular board meeting, Trustee Tom Hendrickson suggested she is a “book burner” for taking out certain titles, most notably older material that refers to First Nation people as savages and AIDS as a “gay people’s problem.”

Hendrickson did not raise any questions with Poulin while she was in attendance, but board meetings are audio recorded and put online for public consumption. In the May 15 meeting, Hendrickson is heard saying he has a problem with people who “burn books” and made a motion to the board to consider having someone from senior staff look at the material Poulin removed from the collection.

That comment, and others, prompted Poulin to return to school board and officially address Hendrickson’s comments. She did so on Tuesday night, at the board’s meeting at Kent elementary school. Poulin took the floor for about a half hour, reading a letter outlining her extensive education background and training and her 20 year history as an educator in the Fraser Cascade School District. She also expressed her shock at being questioned on her process of weeding HSS’s library collection.

“I literally yelled out (while listening to the audio) ‘I am not a book burner,'” she told the board.

She said the comments Hendrickson made likened her to a Nazi and were “offensive, defamatory and quite frankly, disgusted” her.

She said the library collection had not been weeded in over 10 years, and that the process is always a difficult one. About 3,000 books were recently removed from the collection. Some were beyond repair. Others contained obsolete technological information. Many were duplicates.

She attempted to sell some of the books, with little success. She tried giving them away to the students. A few were taken, but the rest were left for removal. She and other staff tore the books from their bindings, removed identifying marks, and recycled the salvageable paper.

There are many benefits to weeding a collection, she added, including making the library more appealing and easier to access for students, and the wider community that uses the HSS library.

Poulin also called Hendrickson homophobic, for comments on the audio recording she interpreted to relate to lesbian and gay material within the library.

In the recording, Hendrickson refers to “those” books and talks about the new discriminatory language policy in the school district.

Poulin demanded an apology for his comments and accusations.

Hendrickson took equal time to respond to Poulin, saying: “If my remarks offended you, I publicly apologize for that. It was certainly not intentional.”

He said his role on the school board is to question things, rather than be a “rubber stamp.”

He explained that when he heard books were being removed from the library because of the potentially offensive or inaccurate content within them, that twigged a reaction in him. But he said his way with words is often very blunt.

“I’m not in any way suggesting you’re a book burning Hitler,” Hendrickson said.

He said he doesn’t want to see society erase the past, or whitewash history. Rather, he’d like to see these old books set apart with a distinction: “Books including historical embarrassments” that could be used “as learning tools for years to come.”

Books have been destroyed all through history, he said, from the Aztecs and churches, to Hitler and Stalin, to suit those in power at the time.

“All of us could take it upon ourselves to verse ourselves in our past history,” he added.

Hendrickson did not clearly respond to being called homophobic. He also stated that he has a right to his opinion, and that the board is there to disagree with him, and that open discussion is part of the decision making process for the board.

“We are not here to rubber stamp a thing,” he said, and since the board disagreed with him, his motion to have Poulin’s work double checked by senior staff was defeated at the May 15 meeting.

“You can put whatever books you want in there, and I can disagree,” he said.

news@ahobserver.com

Just Posted

(Adam Louis/Observer)
PHOTOS: Students leap into action in track events at Kent Elementary

At Kent Elementary, when the sun’s outside, the fun’s outside. The intermediate… Continue reading

Kindergarten kids from Evans elementary school in Chilliwack painted rocks with orange hearts and delivered them to Sto:lo Elders Lodge recently after learning about residential schools. (Laura Bridge photo)
Kindergarten class paints rocks with orange hearts in Chilliwack for local elders

‘Compassion and empathy’ being shown by kids learning about residential schools

Chilliwack potter Cathy Terepocki (left) and Indigenous enhancement teachers Val Tosoff (striped top) and Christine Seymour (fuchsia coat), along with students at Vedder middle school, look at some of the 500-plus pinch pots on Thursday, June 10 made by the kids to honour the 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack students make hundreds of tiny clay pots in honour of 215 Indigenous children

‘I think the healing process has begun,’ says teacher about Vedder middle school project

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Webinar looks at sexual abuse prevention among adolescents

Vancouver/Fraser Valley CoSA hosts free online session on June 15

One person was transported to hospital with minor injuries following a two-vehicle crash on Hot Springs Road June 10. (Adam Louis/Observer)
One hurt following two-vehicle crash on Hot Springs Road

Agassiz Fire Department, B.C. Ambulance Service attended with RCMP

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read