State sets up way for school boards to approve library materials
Last updated 4/12/2022 at 5:31pm
Upcoming school board elections may have a new importance for parents and students in the future as the state begins to allow the boards to oversee all school library acquisitions.
On Monday, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath introduced a proposed state policy for school boards to adopt that will set up criteria for selecting and keeping school library materials. The proposed policy was written after Governor Greg Abbott requested more community and parental involvement in what students read.
The proposed policy applies only to school library books and not classroom textbooks.
The policy includes a way for a district committee to be established to handle complaints about library materials.
The Bridge City ISD and the West Orange-Cove CISD have contested board races on May 7 with early voting to start April 25. The Little Cypress-Mauriceville CISD canceled its election because of no contested races. The Orangefield ISD has board elections in November.
Commissioner Morath's seven-page proposed policy will be sent to all public school districts in Texas and the boards will have the option to vote on adopting the policies. Each year school boards vote on several new or rewritten state-suggested policies.
The move comes after parental complaints across the state about some books being "obscene" or "pornographic."
The proposed policy on library selections involves all new materials being approved by the school board. The policy points out that a 1982 court ruling that set law says "no challenged instructional resource shall be removed solely because of the ideas expressed within."
Any school district that adopts the policy will make the selection process for new library materials, including graphic novels, available for parents to review. The district will also have a list of all library materials available posted on its website. A parent will be able to schedule a meeting to review specific materials. The meeting will be scheduled during reasonable hours.
The district's library supervisor (most districts have at least one librarian with a master's degree in library science), or another designated administrator, will recommend new selections to buy for campus libraries. The selections will be "based on their own expertise" plus recommendations from others.
The proposed policy sets this criteria for each library item:
1. Support and enrich the curriculum and/or students' personal interests and learning;
2. Meet high standards in literary, artistic, and aesthetic quality; technical aspects; and physical format;
3. Be appropriate for the subject area and for the age, intellectual development, and ability level of the students for whom the materials are selected;
4. For non-fiction resources, incorporate accurate and authentic factual content from authoritative sources;
5. Earn favorable reviews in standard reviewing sources and/or favorable recommendations based on preview and examination of materials by professional personnel;
6. Balance cost with need.
A list of all new library material purchase requests will be given to the superintendent to give to the board at least 30 days before the board meeting set to approve the acquisitions.
If an individual board member has a question about specific titles on the list, they contact the superintendent at least 15 days before the board meeting.
"The Superintendent or designee shall then contact the district-level library supervisor to obtain copies of professional reviews of any library material in question. If so desired, the board member can obtain a copy of the library material from another source," the policy reads.
The board will then vote on the purchase list of materials and trustees may voice their objections and rationale for not including a book or publication. After the board votes on the list, the list will be used to then check off the materials on arrival to assure nothing else goes into a school library.
Parents of students, or any resident of the school district, may formally challenge materials in a school library. The district will schedule a meeting between the complainant and superintendent or designated staff representative.
The district will be able to set up a committee to review formal complaints about library materials.