Schools to review explicit books
Madison County Public Schools will use the summer to review about 20 books that have been challenged by parents as sexually explicit, overtly political or age inappropriate.
Brandi Thompson, a parent, said one of the concerns is who will be on the review committee and said that parents have reported issues with viewing the online catalogue of books available.
Each school conducted its own review of the books and presented findings to the superintendent who is now forming a committee of teachers, librarians, and parents who will read the challenged books and present recommendations on changes to the current policy in August.
She and other parents complained about the content of books in school district libraries as early as November and they submitted a list of 22 books in January to district officials for review.
Jennifer Miller, who has an 8th grader and a 10th grader in the Madison County Schools, said the goal is to make sure parents have the final decision on what is appropriate for their children.
“We have asked the School Board to update their selection and review process for library books to include screening for obscene material and then retroactively apply the revised process to books about which a parent has raised a concern,” Miller said.
Madison County Schools Director of Communications Gene Wright confirmed that about 22 books are under review and have been put in “temporary restricted circulation” meaning students will need parental consent before they can check the books out, the Journal reported last week.
“We are constantly adding new titles and weeding out others,” Wright said. “Any library’s catalogue is very rarely static, whether or not book challenges are made.”
She said the District’s Reconsideration Team will be “a diverse group of MCS District officials, teachers, librarians, administrators, and parents from all zones in Madison County Schools.” She said the team will be comprised of teachers and parents recommended by school principals.
“If the schools want to create a system where some books require parental approval for check-out, I would support that option,” Miller said.
Thompson said that parents in their group plan to contact their principals about being on the review committee.
Book titles include “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie. A video circulated by parents shows Lindsey Beckham reading a portion to the School Board describing the author’s proficiency with masturbation and another passage detailing a character’s sexual relationship with a tree. The video was posted in early April.
She said that the book is in the Madison Central Library.
Thompson was one of the parents who shared the video. She noted that curious parents should not play the video in front of their kids.
“Listen to this if you want to hear an excerpt from a book that is sitting on a bookshelf in our Madison schools,” Thompson’s post read in part. “I had already seen it firsthand but hearing read aloud in person made me want to hide under my chair.”
Another challenged book is Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” which includes descriptions of sexual assault and other mature themes.
Below are the titles that have been recently challenged and are currently on restricted circulation:
• The Bluest Eye
• Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
• Out of Darkness
• Kite Runner
• All American Boys
• American Born Chinese
• Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person
• Dear Martin
• Discovering Wes Moore
• Eleanor and Park
• I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
• Let Me Hear a Rhyme
• Love, Hate, and Other Filters
• Monday’s Not Coming
• Piecing Me Together
• Queer, There, & Everywhere
• The Benefits of Being an Octopus
• The Hate U Give
• Touching Bear Spirit
The books on the list are in secondary school libraries across the district.
Another issue, Thompson said, has been the availability of an online catalogue of books in the school’s library system. Thompson said she could freely view books in other system’s libraries, specifically neighboring Rankin County.
She said an online catalogue was available through the parent's online portal through a program she called Follett but has been unavailable she says since parents made complaints.
Wright said that guest access to the library catalogue has never been “consistently available” across the district and that access to each student’s library should be available through student portals known as Canvas and Clever.
“For current parents and students, access is always available through the online portal,” Wright said. “Any parents experiencing issues with portal access can contact their school for assistance.”
Thompson said that she has asked for a log-in for the password-protected book catalogue but had not received a satisfactory answer.
The next board meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 6 at 5 p.m. in the boardroom at the MCSD central office on the Highland Colony Parkway in Ridgeland.