Wake County school leaders are working on a new policy that would cover how parents could challenge books and other instructional materials that are used in their child’s school.
The new policy says instructional materials may be removed “only for legitimate educational reasons and subject to the limitations of the First Amendment.” The policy, which the school board will consider at its meeting Tuesday, comes as Wake receives 5 to 10 formal book challenges a year.
“For history’s sake, Wake County has never banned a book in the district,” Marlo Gaddis, senior director of instructional technology and media services, recently told school board members. “That’s a good thing to be able to say in this district.”
School districts around the nation have faced parental challenges on books such as “The Color Purple,” “Beloved,” “The Chocolate War,” “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” due to their language.
In 2014, East Wake High School in Wendell removed “The Bluest Eye” from reading lists and required any teacher who plans to use “The Color Purple” to assign it as alternative reading after receiving parental consent. A parent had objected to content in the books about rape.
In 2015, conservative groups complained that fourth-grade students at Highcroft Elementary School in Cary were reading “One Crazy Summer” and “Esperanza Rising.” Activists said the books contained age-inappropriate material about the Black Panthers, police brutality and illegal immigration.
Wake now has administrative guidelines that call for principals to establish a committee of school staff and parents to review book challenges. But with Wake modifying its policies to match those used by the N.C. School Boards Association, school administrators are recommending the district have a policy on book challenges.
The new policy says material will be removed from instructional use or accommodations will be made if the material violates the constitutional or legal rights of a parent or student.
If the objection isn’t based on legal or constitutional grounds, the committee may accommodate the objection after considering how it would impact the curriculum, the teacher and other students.
The committee’s decision can be appealed to the superintendent, and the superintendent’s decision can be appealed to the school board.
The new policy was approved by the school board’s policy committee on Jan. 24. It will go to the full school board for consideration on Tuesday.
School board member Jim Martin, chair of the policy committee, said he doesn’t believe the new policy will be a significant change over what’s now in place or will lead to more books being challenged.
“I don’t think it’s really anything new here although it technically is a new policy,” Martin said. “What this gives us is a stronger policy.”