March 18—The Hamilton County School Board’s policy change process on reading materials took another step forward Thursday night as Rhonda Thurman of Hixson, chair of a special book review committee, presented a report on the work of his panel to the board.
Comprised of two community representatives from each district of the council, the committee was asked to make recommendations on council policy changes related to the selection of school reading material and the review process when complaints about content reading material are submitted. The committee completed its work after three meetings full of discussions.
Nearly a dozen people with differing views on school reading materials spoke at Thursday’s meeting.
“I’m not saying it’s wrong to have concerns about what your child knows or to want transparency, because I don’t know a single parent who doesn’t care what their children know. access,” said Angela Favaloro, who served on the book’s review committee. “We just have different ideas about what stories and storytelling are for and their overall value.”
School board attorney Scott Bennett presented a draft of the revised policy for discussion at the committee’s last meeting on March 8.
In Policy 4.402, Selection of Instructional Materials (Other than Textbooks) — which states that “special consideration will be given to the suitability of instructional materials that include content that could be considered sensitive to parents or students” — the revised draft policy replaces “sensitive” with “offensive to community standards”.
In the revised policy, the “selection criteria” of documents are replaced by “review criteria”. It adds to the criteria consideration of “the extent to which content may be considered offensive to community standards based on profane language, graphic depictions of violence or sex, etc.”
“In the event that the administration or board determines that a work is offensive but nonetheless offers literary value, steps will be taken to notify parents or guardians when their students have accessed such material,” the policy states. proposed.
The policy changes also prohibit donations from being added to library collections without considering the review criteria.
In Policy 4.403, Reconsideration of Instructional Materials and Textbooks, a statement in support of the principles of intellectual freedom expressed in the American Library Association’s “Library Bill of Rights” is removed from the draft policy.
The revised draft policy would also prohibit anyone from approaching the board about the content of any books or other educational materials without first following the procedure outlined in the policy.
Bennett is preparing an updated version of the revised draft policy which, along with recommendations from committee members, will be sent to the chair of the board’s policy committee, James Walker.
Once the revised policy has been reviewed by the school board’s policy committee, it will come back to the board for discussion and vote, and a second vote is required for a policy change, Thurman said.
The Hamilton County School Board policy changes come as the Tennessee Legislature sends Governor Bill Lee’s office a school library bill that would require public schools to publish lists of materials in their collections and review periodically documents for “age appropriateness”. this autumn.
Known as the Age Appropriate Materials Act of 2022, the bill leaves the definition of what is age appropriate to local school boards, which are each required to adopt a policy establishing procedures for the development and l review of school library collections.
A second state bill, a bill prohibiting “obscene” materials from school libraries, is in the State House.
Contact Emily Crisman at [email protected] or 423-757-6508.