After book removal, library policy up for adoption by Roanoke County School Board | Education

The Roanoke County School Board is expected to vote Thursday on an updated media policy that would make it harder for librarians to add books to school collections, while expanding parents’ power to potentially remove them.

The case comes after a book, ‘When Aidan Became a Brother,’ was removed from Herman L. Horn Elementary School last year amid a debate.

The new policy proposal presented by the administration for the council’s consideration differs from that proposed by a committee of librarians to the administration, particularly in terms of how books are added to catalogs and how they can be removed .

Currently, librarians have the opportunity to enrich their collection by using “professional and reputable selection aids, such as professional journals, basic collection tools and conference presentations when selecting media to check” , according to the school system policy guide.

Under the proposed policy expected to pass on Thursday, two librarians at the elementary level and one at the middle and high school level would have to read every book and write a review before it was even considered for the collection.

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Additionally, once librarians of their educational level have read the review, they must all agree that the book is appropriate to be added to the collection before it is eligible for purchase, pending a period two-week parental review, according to county documents.

This method of adding books to collections is not policy in the Roanoke City, Salem, or Montgomery County school systems, which are not as restrictive as Roanoke County’s proposed policy, according to a review of each school’s procedures. system by the Roanoke Times.

A retired Roanoke County school system librarian, Beth Via, said the new procedures would put librarians in an unmanageable position.

“A school can get hundreds of new books a year,” she said. “It’s unreasonable to expect them to read every book they order in addition to their other duties,” Via said.

The other main change to the media policy involves greater parental oversight in the form of changing and expanding the way the appeal committee process works.

Currently, if a parent challenges the validity of a book in a school’s collection, the case is handled by three librarians who assess the complaint, but may also be re-appealed and reviewed. by a group of citizens.

Among these members of the appeal committee – also comprising three people – one is chosen by the complainant and the other by the director. The third member is chosen from a list of five people provided by a member of the school board in the district where the complaint is lodged.

Under the new policy, the second-level appeal group would be a group of five citizens, with each school board member choosing one committee member.

The Librarians’ Committee proposed a librarian from each grade level, a relative not known to the Complainant, and a teacher who does not know or teach the Complainant’s child to serve on the second appeal committee.

When asked why the new policy differed so much from the one recommended by the Librarians’ Committee, school system spokesman Chuck Lionberger wrote in an email that librarians “were interested in eliminating any appeals of challenges to books beyond the level of librarians”.

“This was inconsistent with current policy and inconsistent with school board direction,” Lionberger wrote, also noting that the proposed collaboration among librarians was a good thing, rather than having a single librarian add librarians. books to the school they serve. .

He did not explain how the additional workload could be handled, or what model the administration used to override the recommendations of the librarians’ committee.

Last month, county school board chairman David Linden said the board had very limited input into the administration’s proposed policy changes.

Lionberger also noted earlier this week that parents currently have the option of telling school officials if there are books they don’t want their children to check or read.

Parents who disagree with the policy have expressed concern on social media, calling it a form of censorship and a move in the wrong direction for the school system.

Last November, “When Aidan Became a Brother,” was removed from Herman L. Horn after a relative filed the lawsuit.

The book is about a transgender boy who wants to be a good sibling to his new sibling, and according to school system documents, the mention of gender identity in the book is what led to the complaint.

“Our main objection to this book is that the theme of the book is not developmentally appropriate for most elementary-aged children who have never been introduced to the idea that people can be anything other than their gender. biological”, is part of the parental complaint form. bed.

“A child who innocently takes this book from the library collection will likely become very confused and possibly traumatized.”

The Librarians’ Appeals Committee disagreed with parents’ concerns, saying the book had merit and represented children in schools, saying the book’s removal based on controversial issues was out of hand. “censorship”.

“The kindness and compassion in the book is moving,” said the librarians’ rebuttal. “Representation is important so that students can see themselves in the books in the library collection. This book is a good catalyst to open doors.

The parent appealed the librarians’ decision, writing in a rebuttal email that “common sense” should be brought into the equation.

“It is apparent from their response that someone outside of their field should have a say in this process,” the parent wrote.

The school system then followed suit and an appeal committee of three community members overturned the decision, and the book was withdrawn from circulation.

The citizens’ appeal committee included Kellay Harnish, Matt Robertson and Kevin Tuck, according to CPPN documents.

Now, “When Aidan Became a Brother” is only available to parents at Horn Elementary’s guidance office, Lionberger said.

The school board is due to vote on the proposed policy at Thursday’s meeting, where parents who wish to speak out for or against the changes will have the opportunity to do so. The meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m. in the administration building at 5937 Cove Road. Those wishing to speak are requested to register before the meeting.

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