How Disputed Books Are Approved in the Idaho School District


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The new school year in Idaho is well underway, but the Nampa School District Board is still embroiled in conversations and debates about the fate of 23 books the school board voted to remove “forever” from libraries in district in May.

The debate and ultimate removal of the titles appears to stem from a Change.org petition in January, in which a person claiming to be a parent called on the Nampa School District Board to remove 21 titles. Over 100 people have signed the petition.

Books removed from the shelves of the district library were called “pornographic” by a parent at a school board meeting in January, according to a previous report by the Idaho Statesman. The board voted to remove the disputed titles before dedicated book review committees had a chance to complete the process.

The decision to remove the books has now opened up new discussions about the criteria a book should meet when being considered for inclusion in school libraries and the process for reviewing challenged books in the future.

How are books currently deemed appropriate for students?

The Nampa School District currently operates under Council 2510 policy for the selection of library materials. The policy states that the school board delegates authority for book selection to the superintendent, who in turn delegates this responsibility to the principals of each school. Principals can then delegate this responsibility to the school librarian.

The only category of literature not permitted by the policy is “sectarian in nature,” meaning any content that details a conflict between two political or cultural groups.

“The topic of ‘cult nature’ sparked a lot of discussion in our library group last spring,” Nampa High School librarian Nancy Finney told the Idaho Statesman.

She acknowledged that the rule may not be clear. Although they try to abide by the rule, Finney said libraries still have books that deal with sectarian issues, such as war or religion, but represent “a fair and unbiased presentation of information” and “as much variety of opinions as possible”.

The Nampa School Board is currently revising policy for Council 2510, Finney told the Statesman. The council is expected to hold a workshop to discuss the issues, but council clerk Krissy LaMont said she does not yet know when that will be.

District librarians have also collectively created an additional document that outlines the criteria for whether a book should be added to a library:

  • The book supports individual school and district educational goals and standards.

  • The book supports the program as well as extracurricular activities.

  • The material is appropriate for the age, subject, reading level, emotional development, ability level and social development of the intended user.

  • Documents have literary or historical significance or merit.

According to a district screening procedures document—which is attached to the Nampa School District’s proposed reconsideration procedure document for disputed books that have not yet been approved—“professional review sites” such as School Library Journal and Goodreads will be used to determine if a book is suitable for school libraries.

A book doesn’t need to meet all four criteria, Finney said. Sometimes a title will only meet one criterion, but if the book brings value to the school library, it will be added.

“Right now (the school board) is trying to change that. But before that, that’s what we did, if he hits one of them,” Finney said. “But the thing is, most of the books that come here are going to touch more than one, especially if they’re age-appropriate. And that’s a great thing.

Finney said she also keeps the library fresh by adding books of interest to students or staff; these include books from a popular series or authors, award-winning books and bestsellers, and specific requests from students and staff.

District libraries typically acquire their books through money collected from fundraisers and fines collected from students and district members who return late or irreparably damaged books. Donations are also accepted if the donated books meet the criteria listed above.

BOI_0616_05_Nampabooks
“Read forbidden books” is painted in paint on the window of a truck in the parking lot of the Nampa School District office during a school board meeting June 16, 2022. Sarah A. Miller [email protected]

The Nampa School Board involved in the selection process

At the last board meeting, trustees raised questions about the district library’s book selection process.

Administrator Marco Valle said the selection criteria could be more direct to prevent any book “that sexualizes children in any way”, contains “graphic sex” or includes obscene or vulgar language from being chosen. .

“Our job is to protect children and protect children,” he told the meeting. Because the world is changing, that “doesn’t mean we have to change. And I believe we have every right and ability to create policy that reflects what the community wants.

But other administrators said it would be difficult to define which books would be acceptable and which would not. That’s why it’s important to have a process for parents or community members to raise concerns about a specific book, they said.

Administrator Brook Taylor noted that children come to school with different backgrounds and experiences.

“The more we talk about it, the more we get into these weeds with what you would find appropriate, what I would find appropriate, what we would find appropriate together,” she said. “A strong challenge process, I think, brings those things back to the board.”

Finney wondered what exactly could prevent a book from being selected.

“Right now I’m going, ‘What do you mean? If you have a swear word in a book, does that mean it can’t be here?'” she said. said.

Students who visit the library want to read books that touch their lives, she says – books they can relate to.

“That’s what literature is today,” she says. “He has to follow criteria, but that’s what I put here; something they want to read.

This story was originally published September 23, 2022 06:00.

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Shaun Goodwin is a duty reporter in the Pacific Northwest. If you enjoy stories like this, consider supporting our work by subscribing to our journal.
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