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Library Board Can't Decide Whether All Sex Offenders Should Be Banned from Presenting to Children

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The drag queen story hour trend continues to cause controversy, and now one library is facing backlash for attempting to background-check potential drag performers.

After the Wichita Public Library considered background-checking library presenters, the proposal was put on hold when the library’s board of directors disagreed on banning all sex offenders.

How could such a policy be remotely controversial?

The answer requires some background.

As The Wichita Eagle reported, library director Cynthia Berner “acknowledged that [a September 2018 drag queen event] was the genesis of ongoing talks that led to the proposed policy.”

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Local pastor Craig Coffey urged the library to adopt the background check policy in a letter to the board, asking, “since this Board’s intent is to continue Drag Queen Story Hour programming, are you at least willing to perform background checks on the participants?”

“All it takes is one time for a tragedy to occur. Taking into account the Library’s own policies and procedures were violated at the last Drag Queen event, are you willing to publicly take that chance? Are you willing to assume the risk?” Coffey wrote.

Minutes from a library board meeting revealed that Coffey’s suggestion inspired the library’s proposal, according to The Wichita Eagle.

The library’s consideration of the pastor’s request angered, in turn, LGBT activists around the city.

Do you think libraries should ban sex offenders from children's story time?

“It’s clear why they’re checking for sex offenses only,” said Thomas Witt, the director of LGBT advocacy group Equality Kansas. “They’re trying to label the LGBT population in this city as sex offenders, which is offensive in and of itself.”

Now the library board is reconsidering implementing the policy.

The board put the background check proposal on hold Tuesday, The Wichita Eagle reported in a follow-up article.

Some of the board members were unwilling to approve a ban on sex offenders presenting at the library, preferring to accept or reject individuals on a more case-by-case basis.

One board member, Jonathan Winkler, claimed that the ban might erroneously flag individuals as sex offenders for consensual same-sex conduct that used to be illegal. The Wichita Eagle cited no other arguments against the ban.

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Putting aside the bigger question of why libraries are in the drag queen business in the first place, the Wichita Public Library board’s inability to agree on banning sex offenders from their reading hours is utterly mystifying.

The only argument the ban’s opponents can trot out is that the sex offender registry isn’t 100 percent accurate. Whether that claim is true or not, Winkler’s complaint is with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, not with his colleagues on the board.

Furthermore, the ban is not “targeted” at the LGBT community: It was proposed as a universal measure to help keep children safe.

For reasons outside the scope of this article, libraries across the country (and around the world) are giving drag queen performers a unique public platform.

And if a handful of stubborn local bureaucrats have their way, they’ll give that platform to sex offenders, too.

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