Sexually Explicit Content – Enough to Permanently Block an Email Address, but Okay for Books in Public Schools?

HAGERSTOWN, MD News (11/27/2022) – Effective immediately, Radio Free Hub City will no longer solicit comment from involved boards or councils of elected officials before publishing articles. This policy is in direct response to an incident which resulted in our email address being permanently blocked by the email provider, because apparently the content of our emails were sexually explicit enough to trigger spam filters, but this same content is perfectly acceptable in school libraries according to WCPS.

What Happened?

In early November, Radio Free Hub City emailed the WCPS Board of Education regarding sexually explicit content in school libraries. These emails apparently were never delivered, and instead either flagged by the WCPS email server as spam or flagged by the mail provider itself. The emails never made it to even the spam folders of the Board of Education members. Given that RFHC successful communicated with other government agencies without issue, the problem likely lies with WCPS.

Later the same month, Radio Free Hub City’s email address was permanently blocked for “security reasons” concerning “impermissible activity”., the email provider, refused to provide additional details. Impermissible activity, according to their terms of service, is typically what everyone refers to as “spam”.

It is our belief that, based upon reports of similar issues with on their parent company’s BBB profile, the highly restrictive email filters at WCPS (or possibly keyed upon the sexually explicit email content, and rejected the emails as spam. Of course we have no means of verifying, and given the extremely hostile attitude given to us by one of the Board of Education members as a result of our article, we have no desire to communicate with WCPS further on this matter.

What was in the emails to get them flagged and our email account terminated?

What was in the emails? Requests for comment regarding sexually explicit content in books in our local public schools.

You read that right – the emails contained inquiries about sexually explicit topics considered so obscene they were blocked by spam filters. And yet, books exist in our public schools with this same content, and over half of the Board of Education believes this is perfectly acceptable.

How did those books get in our school libraries in the first place?

Board of Education 2022 candidate Ethan Loewen shed light on the process for us here at Radio Free Hub City: “From what we’ve discovered, their is a company called Follett company, which has a near monopoly on selling books to America’s public school libraries. They make recommendations and when they recommend a book, it usually comes in the form of a brief description. They are not putting pornographic excerpts in those descriptions. Librarians rely heavily upon Follet’s recommendations. And up until parents found these books in our library‘s, there had not been a reason in the past for librarian’s to 2nd guess Follett.”

Loewen also helped shed some light on why parent and community inquiries regarding these books have gone unanswered, “Board members are strongly encouraged to refrain from making conclusive statements in emails. Whereas, their seems to be more leeway in public sessions such as this Tuesday, when Darrell and Mike spoke in support of Ashley and initiating a review of the books. While Linda and Stan spoke in support of the books. Mike and Darrell publicly called for a review last year as well. However, when you are in the minority all you can do is be loud and use your voice from the podium to bring awareness.”

We greatly appreciate Mr. Loewen’s assistance in answering these basic questions, and hope that he will run again for Board of Education in 2024.

So what now?

Of course, it’s only fair that if we don’t email the Board of Education, we don’t email any other local government organizations either. As such, what has previously been a courtesy to local elected officials when writing stories, will now mostly come to an end.

Unfortunately we do not have the time to reach out to entire boards or councils of elected officials over the phone for articles, due to time constraints. If a board has 5 members, and a phone call takes 30 minutes each, that means over half a business day would be spent on the phone for each article. Simply put, no news media organization has the time to devote that much time to a single article talking to people, unless it’s an in-depth investigative story far beyond anything we’ve ever done.

So moving forward, we will gladly accept elected officials comments through email or social media, but only when the elected officials initiate the email. We simply cannot play whack-a-mole and find a new email provider every time an overly restrictive email server flags us as spam, for the crime of asking our public officials questions. We may on occasion reach out to individual elected officials via social media or phone, but we simply cannot endanger the ability to communicate with visitors, listeners, and sponsors.

Article by Ken Buckler, President and Managing Editor of Radio Free Hub City.

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