For the past two years, Central Bucks School District has been the epicenter of the conservative culture war against the LGBTQ+ community, with the Republican-dominated school board enacting numerous policies targeting LGBTQ+ students and their issues. However, this front of the culture war entered a dramatic new phase this week.
Last month’s elections saw the CBSD school board flip from a 6-3 Republican majority to a 6-3 Democratic majority. On Dec. 4, the new school board was sworn in. To applause from an SRO crowd, the new board moved immediately to fulfill its campaign promises to dismantle the regressive policies enacted by the previous regime.
The board’s first order of business was voting to make Karen Smith its president. Smith previously spearheaded opposition to the old board’s anti-LGBTQ+ policies. As a result of her advocacy, Smith had often been vilified by Republican members of the previous board and by conservative members of the community.
The policies the new board voted to rescind were:
- Policy 109.1: This policy prohibited “sexualized content” in resource materials approved and provided by the district. There was a focus on health-related issues, mandating prioritizing the procreative nature of sex. Critics of the policy said this was a way to exclude discussion of issues related to same-sex relationships.
- Policy 109.2: This created a process to review and remove library books that contain “sexualized content.” This policy made it vastly easier to ban books from the library; the overwhelming majority of the books subjected to this process contained LGBTQ+ or diversity-related characters and/or themes.
- Policy 123.3: This one restricted transgender female students from participating in girls’ sports.
- Policy 321: This policy prohibited teachers from “indoctrinating students” and requires that they take a neutral approach when discussing “socio-political issues” in the classroom. This policy bans the display of political flags, a category that the district said includes pride flags, in classrooms.
The suspended policies have also led to legal and financial trouble for the district; e.g.,
the ACLU of Pennsylvania last year filed a complaint with the federal government charging that the district has created a “widespread culture of discrimination” targeting LGBTQ+ and nonbinary students through its policies. The legal bill from the firm hired by the previous board to investigate the charges will saddle Bucks taxpayers upwards of $1.5 million in legal fees.
The new board also pledged to investigate the legality of the severance package given to former CBSD superintendent Abraham Lucabaugh. A staunch ally of the Republican board, Lucabaugh resigned mere days after the election flipped the political makeup of the board. At its final meeting, the outgoing board voted to give Lucabaugh a severance package worth more than $700,000.