NAMPA — Two people dressed as handmaids from Margaret Atwood’s novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” walked into the Nampa School District’s boardroom and took their seats in the front row of the audience. Each held a copy of this book.
So began Monday night’s special council business session that included a portion devoted to discussing the process for disputed books in the district. The meeting included a reflection from the board on the decision to remove books from school libraries last month, their thoughts on the future, and feedback from school librarians and parents who had been involved in the review process for these books. .
“This is all just a discussion, because I think it’s really important that we make sure we have a really good, solid, transparent, written and consistent process that all of our clients, our parents, our staff… everyone knows that’s the process we’ll use to challenge the books,” board chairman Jeff Kirkman said at the start of the meeting.
The meeting was open to the public, but there was no time for public comments included in the discussion.
At the council meeting in May, three of five council members voted to remove 22 books from district libraries “forever,” citing concerns about “pornography,” as previously reported. The books in question were being reviewed by committees of teachers, staff, and parents, but it was unclear how the council’s decision would affect that process and what process the district would use to evaluate the challenged books at the future.
Following the ruling, the district released a statement saying “the board and the district will work together to create a fair, consistent, and transparent process for handling disputed books.”
At Monday’s meeting, Kirkman said he felt the procedure for challenging the books was unclear, which is why he voted to remove the books from libraries. After the meeting at which the board voted to remove the books, Kirkman and trustee Brook Taylor met with some of the district’s librarians, as well as concerned parents for further discussion, Kirkman said. The notes included with the books agenda item at Monday’s meeting were taken at that meeting, he said.
Trustee Mandy Simpson said she was concerned that it was not the board’s job to come up with the procedure for disputed books, saying the board should instead work on a policy that guides how the superintendent and staff of the district manage disputed books.
“If there are specific things that we want our superintendent and his staff to do in the process, that should be dictated by policy,” Simpson said. “So I want to make sure that we’re focused on that as a board and what we need to do to make those changes.”
Administrator Tracey Pearson said she felt it necessary to have the books removed because community complaints about the books had been ignored the previous year. The fact that the books were still on the shelves was a failure of leadership, she said.
“I don’t think (the books) were appropriate, and it was a failed system,” Pearson said. “So I had to act, I felt, for people.”
Administrator Marco Valle, who also voted to remove the books, said the disputed process was not transparent and stood by his vote, while arguing for an improved procedure.
“An electric shock is sometimes needed to make changes for the right way,” Valle said. “We removed those books, which I’m glad we did. But let’s find out the process. I think it needs to be clear, concise, well-written, and it needs to make sense based on our community, not Ada County, not Colorado or Florida, and all the places from where we received emails.
Acting Superintendent Gregg Russell explained that the process by which books are reviewed is similar to the process by which the curriculum is revised when difficulties arise. Typically, it starts with a written complaint from a parent and can be discussed at various levels of administrative leadership until the issue is resolved, he said.
If a parent doesn’t want their child to read certain books, they have a choice, Russell said. For example, if a parent doesn’t want their child to read a certain book for the class, there are other approved books the teacher can suggest, he said.
For the library, parents can request that their child be banned from viewing certain books, said Ann Christensen, a librarian at Skyview High School, who was present at the meeting.
Christensen said the review of the disputed books began with the selection of a committee of parents, staff and teachers. These committees had reviewed three books by the time the board voted to remove the books in May.
“My time as a librarian, as a teacher and as a citizen is spent on it,” Christensen said, noting that she tries to read the books at school when she can, but also reads them. during his free time. A parent who challenged the books was asked to participate in the review process but declined, Christensen said.
Overall, the committees felt that some books were appropriate to be in school, and others weren’t, she said.
Another parent who participated in the review and was present at the meeting said some of the age recommendations given by Common Sense Media, a media review platform helping to guide the review process, should be raised. .
Nancy Finney, a librarian at Nampa High School, said books that deal with seemingly controversial topics can help students see they’re not the only ones facing adversity.
“What these books do is they open our minds to hot topics that these kids are going through,” Finney said. “If you think we don’t have children who have been physically or mentally abused, you are wrong. If you don’t think we have kids who have been bullied or raped, you’re wrong. Some of these books can give our children coping skills and how to deal with it.
Although the books can seem extreme or offensive when an excerpt is taken out of context, the value of the book is often more than that, she said.
Finney, Christensen and the other two parents present seemed to agree that a parent should have the option to say if they did not want their children to read a certain book.
A parent said it was about choosing and protecting the child’s right to read, asking why a certain group of parents should choose what their child can read.
But Pearson said it would be impossible for a parent to know the contents of every book offered in a school library.
Taylor, who voted against removing the books, said some of the books on the list are high quality and reflect the community.
“I agree with you, not only are some of these books phenomenal, but they resonate with my life and the lives of my children,” Taylor said, addressing the librarians and parent committee members. “We are a broken home and my ex-husband is a drug addict. So I really appreciate your guys’ commitment to reading these things because I believe our community is very, very diverse, even in its diversity.
Kirkman expressed hope that the process for disputed books would be refined by the start of the school year, and that he anticipates some of the books may end up on library shelves. Council clerk Krissy LaMont said she plans to schedule a council business session devoted to discussing the process in the coming months.
Several of the books banned at the May meeting were recommended for AP English Literature classes, as previously reported. As a result of the decision, these will no longer be included in the playlist, as previously stated.
At the May meeting, administrators and other district staff had discussed what would happen to books removed from libraries, and it was speculated that they could suffer the same fate as materials removed from school curricula. : be discarded. However, the District Managers have decided that they will keep the books in the District warehouse until further decisions are made as previously reported.
When news of the banned books broke last month, local bookseller Rediscovered Bookshop stepped up, including asking the public to donate copies of the books for distribution in Nampa.
On Wednesday, the bookstore is planning a “Banned Books Giveaway” event at the Flying M Coffee Garage in Nampa, 1314 2nd Street South, Nampa, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., according to the bookstore’s website. The event will offer more than 1,250 copies of various books from the banned list that the public donated in a week after the council’s decision, according to the website. Anyone with a Nampa student ID will be able to receive up to three copies of the books, and staff and teachers will also be able to take copies home, as noted earlier.
A Banned Books Reading will also be held on the lawn of the School District Administration Building (619 S. Canyon Street, Nampa) on Monday, June 13 at 6 p.m., hosted by the Nampa Banned Books Fan Club.
The board workshop also included a discussion of the budget for the coming year, as well as the curriculum decision-making process and board priorities and goals.