The National Coalition Against Censorship has written to Forsyth County Schools in Cumming, Georgia, in regard to the district’s recent removal of numerous books from school libraries in violation of district regulations.
According to media reports, after a parent complained that some library books contained allegedly “sexually explicit” materials, the superintendent asked staff members to find and review any books that they believed contain “sexually explicit” material and, as a result of that review, eight books were removed from all district libraries. A district spokesperson told NCAC that two of the books will be reviewed by the district’s Media Committee, but that the others will not be reviewed and have been removed permanently.
These actions are in violation of the district’s book challenge policies, which holds that challenges to library materials must be adjudicated according to the policy and that access to challenged materials shall not be restricted during the challenge process. The policy also demands, correctly, that books must be considered in their entirety, not judged solely on portions taken out of context. By exempting books from the review process works which supposedly contain “sexually explicit” material, the administration has clearly violated its own policies, threatening students’ First Amendment rights.
Book challenges are often highly contentious and emotional and book review policies ensure that all parties feel that they have been heard and respected. They also ensure that decisions are made based on objective criteria which focus on the needs of students. For example, Forsyth’s policy provides that a diverse committee of education professionals and community members review the challenged work; that the work be considered in its entirety; and that the review committee consider a long list of very specific criteria when determining whether to retain or remove the book.
Instead of following this very sound and thoughtful policy, a handful of administrators have substituted their own opinion for the deliberations of a committee that represents all members of the school community. Administrators are often inclined to dislike controversial books and are therefore more likely to call for their removal than a committee, which weighs their literary, artistic and political value for students.
NCAC urges the Board to return the challenged books to library shelves and to ensure that its challenge procedures are followed in this case and in all future cases.
NCAC’s letter to the school district is below. Click here for a full screen view: