IW School Board Changes Policy on Difficult Books and Resources – Smithfield Times
Isle of Wight County Schools’ updated policy that allows parents to challenge books and other learning resources now explicitly states that the materials ‘must not be banned or removed due to partisan disapproval or doctrinal”.
The school board voted 3-1 on April 21 to make the change after two parents used the process outlined in KLB school board policy to lobby for the removal of content from all iPads issued to more than 5,500 students. of the school system, arguing that the content promoted only “one side” of the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, as well as “anti-police” sentiment and “diminished family and religious values” .
Heidi Swartz, the mother of a Smithfield High School student, had argued in an appeal to the school board earlier this month that when she searched her son’s iPad in the Discovery Education app for “police”, the first seven articles to appear related to police brutality. Candice Vande Brake, the mother of a kindergartener from Windsor Elementary, had browsed Hampton Roads public broadcasting station WHRO’s “eMediaVA” app and found a children’s book called “Max and the Talent Show.” , which features a transgender character.
Both parents had successfully requested that the apps be removed from their own children’s devices, but then sought to end use of the apps across the school division, first taking their demands to a committee at the school level. from the school and then to Isle of Wight county schools. central office and finally to the school board, which ultimately voted each time to continue using the division-wide apps.
Board member John Collick cast the dissenting vote.
“Who will consider a subject ‘partisan’? … If he’s considered ‘partisan’ in wanting to delete it, he’ll be equally partisan in wanting to keep it, just by definition,” Collick said. “Political issues, under no circumstances, should be part of the program to begin with.”
Collick also took issue with the added verbiage which now states that the decision of the superintendent, or his delegate, may be appealed to the school board “or be reviewed at the request of the school board.”
He wondered if the wording would allow the school board to deny a parent the ability to make a final appeal and simply review the central office’s written recommendation. A previous version of the policy, adopted in 2020, said the complaining parent “may appeal the decision” to the superintendent or the superintendent’s designate, “and then to the school board.”
According to Susan Goetz, executive director of school division leadership, the current policy language is recommended by the Virginia School Boards Association.
“Generally, when there is a vagueness in a policy, it is up to the school board to interpret its own policy,” said school board attorney Pakapon “Pak” Phinyowattanachip.