There is an unusual and troubling situation in the Kent School District in Washington state that needs the attention of the school board. As reported in "LGBTQ+ Books Quietly Pulled from Washington State Middle School" in Book Riot, on or about December 10th, 2020, the principal of the Cedar Heights Middle School circumvented the district’s procedure around challenging books in the library by removing several books from circulation without a review process. Following the review process for school library materials is important because it protects the library from censorship while allowing people with concerns about books to be heard. School districts cannot disregard policies like this and the school board must be involved. This petition today is sponsored by a local group of concerned parents, residents, and education stakeholders in the Kent district who are calling for the school board and administration to act - and to follow the school library challenge policy properly.
The Situation in Cedar Heights Middle School:
As noted in the story, "Gavin Downing, librarian at Cedar Heights, chose to expand the library’s LGBTQ+ resources over the course of the school year, in alignment with the district’s policy on supplemental material. Policy 2020P notes that supplemental materials are selected based on a number of factors, including that they “provide non-stereotypical presentation of diverse racial, ethnic, gender and ability groups.” Items purchased for the library must align with this policy, as well as withstand the standards of decency in their depictions of sex and obscenities, guided by professional reviews."
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It appears that the principal took these books from a student without checking them out. She expressed concerns about these books to the school librarian, who had explained the correct procedure to challenge books. The principal stated she could unilaterally remove books from the library at any time because she was the principal. This misunderstanding was clarified by the school librarian, but the processes were still ignored. Eventually, the books were returned, but the librarian’s purchase card was revoked and the librarian was told all future purchases would be vetted by the principal. This is not the policy of the Kent School District and does not follow the district’s policy to challenge books added to the school library. Both this principal and the district have repeatedly misused the term ‘supplemental materials’ to give the misunderstanding to the public that the books can be removed. However, library books do not fall under the description of ‘supplemental materials’ nor ‘curriculum materials’ and as such cannot be removed without following the challenge procedure.
Librarians, not principals, have the training to vet books for library collection. The Kent School District has a stated policy to challenge books others feel don’t belong in the library collection. The Cedar Heights principal attempted to circumvent this procedure. She then attempted to circumvent it again by confiscating the librarian’s purchase card. The Kent School District School Board must require (or mandate) that principals use the correct challenge procedure and allow librarians free access to purchase cards to use at the librarians’ trained discretion.
How You Can Help:
The Kent School District Board must enforce its already established set of procedures for challenging books to be added to school libraries. The Kent School District must allow librarians direct access to purchase cards to add books to school libraries. The Kent School District School Board must require/mandate that these actions be taken. Make your voice heard for the fair, open, and consistent application of policies for school library materials. Please sign this petition today and share it on social media.
EveryLibrary is hosting this petition on behalf of local stakeholders in Kent School District in Washington.