After months of debate, it’s back to the drawing board for a book policy committee in the Hempfield Area School District.
What titles should be on the shelves of school libraries and what process can be used to deal with content that is challenged by graphic violence or sexual content will once again be discussed at the school board meeting.
The board’s policy committee, including four board members, could not come to an agreement last week on a proposed policy for the book challenge. It will be discussed again at the November 21 school board meeting. School boards already have policies in place to guide the selection of resource materials for libraries and the review of instructional materials by students and parents.
The board has been facing challenges for months from parents who claim that some books are not suitable for students and should be removed from the high school library. A small group of parents challenged two books this spring: “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” about a queer black boy, and “The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person,” which chronicles author Frederick Joseph’s experiences with racism. shows The books went through an on-site review process and were not removed.
Director Dianne Ciabattoni opposed the proposed third level of the review process, which would include the ability to appeal the decision from the review committee. She advocates a two-step process that sets up an informal review, then a formal one, without an appeal.
“None of the three phases are happy. I think three steps is too much,” Ciabatoni said.
Director Tony Bumpiani, the board’s president, said the current book review process is not working. For example, he cited the book “Not All Boys Are Blue” for its graphic sexual content.
“We have books under the radar. Something is missing (in the process),” Bompiani said.
He supports the policy of library books that are not linked to the syllabus.
“Extremely sexual content should not be allowed,” Bompiani said.
Director Jennifer Bratz agrees with Bumpiani.
“We have to believe in our parents. ‘Not all boys are blue’ – it makes everyone nervous,” Bratz said.
Director Jane Smith said the library has separate policies for books and course materials. Those objectors can opt out of using that source, Smith said. He said that library books can broaden a student’s perspective, exposing them to different cultures and lifestyles.
Krisha DiMasio, district attorney, said that the biggest problem is in the purchase of books, but it is not realistic to know what is in each book that is selected for the library.
Books are selected for purchase based on several factors, including how they support the curriculum, said Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School librarian and district library chairperson. McGuire also said she relies on professional book reviews from organizations such as the American Library Association and the School Library Journal.
“I have no confidence in the ALA,” Bompiani said.
Superintendent Tammy Wilkie said she was concerned about an act that allowed one person to remove a book.
“Who decides what is sexually explicit?” It still has to be a person’s decision … someone’s opinion,” Volecki said.