Nampa considering new book removal policy
The Nampa School District, which drew national attention for ripping 22 books from its library shelves earlier this year, could implement a new policy for future book complaints by the end of the month.
District spokeswoman Kathleen Tuck told EdNews via email last Thursday that she expects the school board to review the proposed policy at its Sept. 12 meeting.
The proposal follows weeks of discussion after administrators asked Acting Superintendent Greg Russell in June for a policy to guide future book complaints. If approved by administrators next week, the proposal would oversee the process, which was fraught with confusion in the months before the school board banned the books on May 9, according to more than 100 district emails reviewed by EdNews. as part of a public records request. .
Just weeks after the decision to ban the books — and the ensuing backlash — administrators lamented that they had no policy in place to guide the book complaints process. Board Chairman Jeff Kirkman, who joined two other directors in voting to ban the books, said at a June 9 board meeting that the process of district to remove the books “was everywhere”.
“Sometimes a shock to the system is needed to make changes in the right direction,” administrator Marco Valle, who also voted to ban the books, said at the same meeting.
Nampa does not have a procedure regarding disputed books, Tuck pointed out to EdNews last week. Instead, the process leading to the May 9 decision hinged on other policies, including a grievance policy and other administrative procedures.
Proposed plan broken down by ‘tiers’
The proposal clarifies that a challenge to the books must first be addressed at the school or building level and includes information on how to proceed, if necessary.
Up to four “levels” would guide the process:
- Level 1 requires an “information meeting” between a teacher or librarian and a building-level administrator regarding a complaint, along with a sheet outlining the district’s process for selecting the library and other additional materials for guidance. If a hardware “resolution” is reached, a copy of the agreement will be sent to a “permanent review committee” consisting of a district librarian, elementary and middle school teachers, a building administrator and a parent or community member. If a resolution is not reached at Level 1, the complainant can complete a “Request for Reconsideration” form and submit it to a building administrator, who will forward it to the committee.
- Level 2 includes review of the re-examination form by the committee, which meets monthly during the school year. The panelists will “gather and review relevant and historical information” regarding the material and make a recommendation, along with a report addressing their findings that will be shared with a district-level administrator and the complainant. If the complainant disagrees with the recommendation, they may request a review by a Level 3 Panel.
- Level 3 includes further review by a “Targeted Review Committee” consisting of a principal, teacher, librarian, district-level content specialist, representatives from special education departments, or federal programs and one parent from each area of the district. Two meetings will allow the panel to evaluate the material by district policy and allow those who complain to express their views.
- Level 4 includes a school board decision if a resolution has not been reached.
Emails highlight confusion that led to book ban
A trove of emails obtained by EdNews from the district highlight the confusing and tense process that led to the council banning the books on May 9 – and the pushback from parents who fueled the effort.
EdNews has requested emails related to the disputed books leading up to the May 9 council’s decision. The request generated hundreds of pages of emails from customers, employees, administrators and others.
“Is this discrimination against me?” Parent Mandy Guy wrote on April 25 to Nampa’s Executive Director of Elementary Education, Laurie Maughan. Guy, who for months had joined a handful of other parents in complaining to the administrators about “pornographic” books, questioned the process the administrators used to review the material and why she hadn’t been selected to participate.
Here’s a timeline of some key details from the emails, prior to the May 9 book ban:
- January 19: Superintendent Greg Russell emails trustees about a parent who complained about the books at a council meeting the night before. He assures board members of a process that has “alleviated concerns” in the past and that he will “reach out” to review material reported by the parent.
- February 2: Parent Tosha Sweeney asks Maughan why no committee has yet been formed and encourages the removal of the 25-pounder. Maughan replies that things have “slowed down” and that a committee is ready to be formed. Maughan also asks for other names of parents who wish to participate. Maughan recognizes Guy’s name as one mentioned for the review board.
- February 18: Russell informs the administrators of the process and indicates that the books under review have been removed from the shelves in the meantime. A committee to review the books will meet on March 2, he adds.
- February 25: Russell tells administrators that 25 books were originally challenged, but one title was “misidentified” as being in a school library. Six other titles have “very little to no questionable content” and have been recommended for removal from the list of disputed books. Ten books were “in between,” Russell adds, and one would have to fill out a review form in order to file a complaint. Eight titles were recommended for deletion. (Russell went on to tell administrators on April 27 that the disputed books had been checked against common sense media grading scale for questionable books.)
- March 11: Guy emails Maughan complaining about not being on a committee to review the books and shares details about the committee with the trustees.
- April 25: Guy rekindles his complaints in an email to the administrators, Russell and Maughan. Maughan tells Guy that the parents of his “group” were invited but two declined, one accepted but did not take any books to revise or show up for meetings. A “variety of parents” serving on the committees have “different viewpoints,” Maughan says.
- April 26: Parent Kristen Young emails Maughan, other parents and board members about the lack of invitations for parents who have expressed concerns. Valle emails Russell to inquire about the process.
- April 27: Russell briefs admins on the process, including details on using the Common Sense Media Book Rating Scale to rate book content. A parent who declined to be on a committee now says he was never asked, he says, adding that the district “did its best to address the concerns.”
- April 29: Young asks Maughan and the trustees who has the final say on the book ban. Maughan says she will compile recommendations for Russell “all at once for action.” Young says she feels “cheated and lied to”.
- May 2nd: Council Clerk Krissy LaMont shares with administrators the District’s grievance procedure.
- May 3: Maughan shares with admins a list of disputed books and more information about the process, as well as a link to Common Sense Media.
- May 9: Council members vote 3 to 2 to ban 22 titles from school libraries.
Comments on the decision vary
Dozens of emails flooded administrators’ inboxes after the vote.
“Thank you,” Sweeney emailed board members the next day.
The banned books are “readily available in public libraries for those who want their children to read them”, patron Alice Carty added.
Others criticized the decision.
“The more I learn about the situation, the more appalling it becomes,” former Nampa director Robert Otten wrote to board chairman Jeff Kirkman on June 17. minute it didn’t work for you.
Other blowbacks lingered, including a response from the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho.
“The board knowingly usurped the process that the Nampa School District used to determine whether the disputed books should remain on the shelves of the district library,” the ACLU wrote to the board last month.
The board “ignored” recommendations from district staff that at least six of the challenged books contained “little or no sexual content,” the ACLU added, and the board opted to remove all 22 books from the shelves of the school library.
Kirkman, who voted with Valle and administrators Tracey Pearson to ban the books, hinted that he might possibly revisit the issue at a later date in a May 23 email to a concerned client.
There is “still an opportunity to revisit the motion after a robust and transparent process is in place to address any challenges to books in NSD libraries,” Kirkman wrote, adding that his vote was to “suspend” everything “until that the board puts an appropriate and transparent procedure in place.
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