Clay County schools writing new manuals on how to challenge books

Julie Morgan

Clay County District Schools has updated a policy that allows parents to report material they deem as obscene in a school library.

The school board took emergency action to adopt the policy that also changes how reading, library and instructional materials are selected. The board did this to comply with the language in HB 1467 that Governor Ron DeSantis signed in March.

The bill, also known as the Curriculum Transparency Bill, gives parents access to which materials are chosen, and it gives them a say in the process. Further, it imposes a 12-year term limit on school board members.

Because of this law, the Procedures Manual for Library Media Services and the Procedures Manual for Instructional Resources have to be updated.

The updated manual establishes the need for a District Curriculum Council. How that council responds to complaints about a book is different from the previous process.

The District Curriculum Council replaces the Leadership Team/Curriculum Council. Previously, after the council received a book challenge, the book would remain in circulation until a final decision was made. Under the new process, the book in question will be removed from circulation pending a final decision. The council will make the recommendation, but the superintendent, or someone he chooses, will issue the final decision.

The updated manual also establishes a school-based Library Media Advisory Committee and a Curriculum Council. The district says individual members of the groups will include "school leadership, the media center specialist, parents, and teachers."

According to the manual, each advisory committee will have several duties, including "soliciting purchasing recommendations from other teachers and students" and providing "leadership in collaborative teaching."

If supplemental materials need to be approved, the Curriculum Council is responsible for that process. These materials include anything not included in the "district adopted core curriculum."

The manual also removes the annual Banned Books Week from the list of school special observances. Banned Books Week is September 18-24. According to the event website, Banned Books Week "celebrates the freedom to read." It was established in 1982 "in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores, and libraries."

One of the updated requirements for choosing library books is that the “books must be free of pornography."

In addition, the instructional materials handbook outlines parents' rights related to instructional and library materials. Parents will have access to both types of materials through the district or school website.

These are only highlights from the updated manuals. You can see the changes to each manual on the agenda for the special meeting Thursday at 9:00 a.m.

One of the items on the agenda is to advertise a public hearing for the updated manuals. This was already voted on during the last board meeting on June 30. However, the public hearing date has been changed from August 4 to September 1. The board will finalize this new date at the meeting Thursday.

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