APPLETON – Parents across the country are calling into question the books and other materials their students are using at school.
In the Appleton Area School District, a formal objection to material has not reached the district level since 2010, when someone raised an issue with the novel “The Body of Christopher Creed,” said Kelly Leopold, 7-12 Director of ELA, Social Studies and World Language.
Since then, any complaints have been handled between the parent or community member and the individual school.
Although it has not been a major issue lately, the district has mechanisms to review objections that cannot be handled by the individual schools.
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That’s when either the educational materials review committee or the library media materials review committee would come in. Made up of parents, district residents, staff and students, these committees review objections and make recommendations about how to respond.
Leopold held a public virtual meeting Thursday that can be found on the district’s YouTube channel to go over the purpose of the committees and how they would address an objection.
Not only does the committee review any complaints about materials, but it complies with a state statute requiring school districts to provide educational and library materials that reflect the diversity of society.
“We talk a lot, in the district, about windows and mirrors and how important it is that our students see themselves and see others in what they’re reading,” Leopold said.
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Who chooses educational and library materials?
The school board is legally responsible for all materials used in the district and approves all textbooks. But it’s up to the assessment, curriculum and instruction department to make recommendations to the board.
Library materials are defined in district policy as any materials or information, regardless of format, available in the school library media center for students and teachers to use.
It’s up to the library media specialist to take stock of the collection and consider what may need to be added. Along with consulting professionally prepared selection aids, they take recommendations from faculty and students.
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According to district policy, both educational and library materials should align with the educational goals of the district and be developmentally appropriate.
The content should be factual and written by “competent and qualified” authors. When making selections, materials should be judged on the author’s intent, the policy says, not on a single word or photo taken out of context.
The policy also states materials should represent the “pluralistic nature” of society in a respectful way.
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What if there are objections to certain materials?
Parents and other adults living in the district can raise an objection to educational or library materials being used for their child. However, they don’t have the right to limit other students’ access to the same materials, Leopold said.
If there is an objection, every effort should be made to first resolve the concern at a school level, according to the district’s policy. Leopold said this could be done by working with the library media specialist, classroom teacher or principal
If it is not resolved, the person making the complaint can formally challenge the materials at a district level.
Challenging materials at the district level is a three-step process.
- The complainant fills out the district’s Request for Reconsideration of Educational Material or Library Material form and submits it to the superintendent.
- The superintendent sends the form to the chair of either the library or educational materials review committee so the committee can review the material in question and provide a written recommendation on its continued use.
- Within five school days after receiving the recommendation, the superintendent reviews it and may ratify, amend or overrule it. The committee’s recommendation and the superintendent’s decisions are sent to the person who challenged the material. The superintendent also provides copies of his decision to the school board and review committee.
If the person who challenged the materials is unhappy with the superintendent’s decision, they may appeal to the school board for further review.
The board will review the previous steps and make a final decision.
Reach AnnMarie Hilton at email@example.com or 920-370-8045. Follow her on Twitter @hilton_annmarie.