Fighting over books…

There have been three stories in the local media of late, about three different school districts where   parents have objected to a book in the school library or included in the curriculum.  What to do when that happens?

The first thing to do is to consult Policy EF and EF Local.  In the Local version you will probably find a carefully worded description of a carefully crafted process that could lead to an appeal to the school board.  When it reaches the board, you may run into some dangerous attitudes.  I’ve heard a few board members over the years express the view that “it’s our library. We will decide what goes into it.”  But it’s not that simple.

 Many policies include this caution:

The major criterion for the final decision on challenged resources is the appropriateness of the resource for its intended educational use. No challenged instructional resource shall be removed solely because of the ideas expressed therein. 

There are First Amendment issues when schools consider removing books from the library or the curriculum.  Take a look at the EF Legal and you will see this:

Students’ First Amendment rights are implicated by the removal of books from the shelves of a school library.  A district shall not remove materials from a library for the purpose of denying students access to ideas with which the district disagrees.  A district may remove materials because they are pervasively vulgar or based solely upon the educational suitability of the books in question.

That language comes from a Supreme Court decision in 1982: Board of Education, Island Trees School District v. Pico.  So it’s not as simple as “It’s our library and we can decide what goes into it.”