Two districts in Northeast Tarrant County, Carroll Independent School District (ISD) and Keller ISD, have recently adopted or proposed new policies for library collections and acquisitions.
Carroll ISD adopted its policy at a July 25 meeting by a vote of 5-0. Two trustees were absent.
“I am in support of the school library policy,“ Carroll ISD parent Danielle Llera wrote in response to an inquiry by The Texan. “It clearly defines the goals, criteria, it’s transparent, and gives parents the opportunity to participate. Having clearly defined standards and a process in place that gives everyone a voice is the right direction.”
She believes the policy makes clear that “books will not be removed based on the ideas contained in them,” an issue about which some in the community are concerned.
Board trustee Hannah Smith also commented during the meeting that the policy provides many “procedural and substantive safeguards” against the ideologically motivated removal of a book.
“It’s a very thorough, robust process requiring a written report if a book is rejected,” Smith noted, adding that there is also a multi-level appeals process to “check for bias.”
The objective of the policy is to “maximize transparency with parents and community members while meeting student needs to provide supplemental enrichment in their learning with appropriate materials.”
It is based on the model policy released on April 11 after Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Texas Education Agency to “address statewide standards to prevent the presence of obscene content in Texas public school libraries.”
The standards for selection note that library materials ought to support the curriculum; be age appropriate; present various sides of a controversial issue; promote literacy; meet high standards of presentation, accuracy, and significance; not contain excessive or gratuitous sexuality, profanity, or violence; and not be edited in any way to make it inconsistent with the author’s intent.
As Carroll board trustee Andrew Yeager pointed out during the meeting, having standards and a process helps “take the heat off of teachers and librarians.”
Library materials will ultimately be approved by the board of trustees, any of whom can make the case to exclude materials from the proposed list. A parent, employee, or resident may also challenge the appropriateness of library materials.
The policy lays out an entire procedure with multiple layers for the challenge and for appealing the decision about the library materials.
If successfully challenged and removed from circulation, the material may not be reconsidered for inclusion in the library for five years. The Keller policy proposes a waiting period of 10 years before reconsideration.
Keller ISD anticipates taking action on its library acquisition policy at its regular board meeting, scheduled for August 22. The most recent copy of the proposed policy found on the district website has a few differences from the Carroll ISD policy.
For one, the list of proposed library acquisitions will be posted for at least 30 days for public review.
Additionally, the Keller policy sets up an expedited review process for materials alleged to be obscene. Those will be immediately reviewed and, if obscene, removed with an accompanying written explanation.
Both the Carroll and Keller policies allow parents to contact campus librarians with individual restrictions for their own students.
At the July 25 Keller ISD board meeting, several community members and district employees commented on the proposed policy.
Two district librarians spoke. Cindy Rich, an elementary school librarian, was concerned about the process being too unwieldy and time-consuming and delaying the addition of new materials.
Missy Brewer, an intermediate school librarian, called the “blanket rating system oppressive” and said it “doesn’t allow for common sense.” She said books can act as bibliotherapy for students who may be dealing with difficult home situations or personal crises.
Some district parents spoke in support of the policy, with one father comparing books to movies. “If my child can’t see a movie rated PG-13 or R, then why a book?”
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.