The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

September 21, 2011

Our View: From bad to worse

We took the Republic Board of Education to task earlier in an editorial because of its decision in July to remove Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” and Sarah Ockler’s “Twenty Boy Summer” from the school’s library.

A year ago, Republic resident Wes Scroggins complained about the appropriateness of those two books as well as “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson. On July 25, following Superintendent Vern Minor’s recommendation, the board kept “Speak” and removed the other two books.

We had hoped, earlier this week, when we heard the board was going to take up the issue again, that the intent would be to rescind its decision. And, in a way, it did. But the board’s actions turned a bad decision into one that could have a chilling impact on school libraries.

The board voted to allow the two books back into the library, but agreed that challenged books be kept in a secure section of the school library, and only parents will be allowed to check out the book if they want their children to read it.

You can see where this is headed. And it was Minor who opened the door.

“The book challenge actually created an opportunity for us as a school district, not just to look at the three books in isolation but to also develop a set of standards that we could use from this point forward,” Minor said in an interview with The Springfield News Leader. “Those standards would do two things for us — help us resolve the public complaint ... and establish parameters to help staff make decisions in the future.”

Any books that fail to meet the standards will be removed from the curriculum and will not be assigned as required readings or read aloud by a teacher. They will be available for independent reading. Parents will be allowed to refuse to have their children read certain books.

Instead of making it harder for books to be removed from library shelves, it will make it easier. In the past, patrons wanting a book removed would go to the board. Now, it appears that won’t be the case.

We hope librarians will raise their hands on the potential danger this new policy could present for school libraries everywhere.

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