Two community members testified in favor of keeping a challenged book in the middle school library and two school district librarian staffers provided a detailed explanation of the book acquisition process during the Philomath School Board’s regular monthly meeting on Thursday night.
The board listened to the visitor viewpoints and took in a 22-minute presentation from district media specialist Ashley Folgate and high school media assistant Kiki Klipfel with few comments. The School Board’s meeting agenda did not include any type of vote to take place on the matter.
Two parents with children in the local school district approached the School Board on Thursday night to oppose the availability of a book that they described as inappropriate and pornographic. They’re also wondering, if that title is available, what else might be within reach of local students? The topic came up at Thursday night’s Philomath…
The issue was raised at the board’s Aug. 18 meeting when two parents complained about a book entitled “Flamer” as containing inappropriate material. The book in question is a graphic novel by Mike Curato that tells the story of a boy transitioning from middle school to high school and realizing he’s gay while facing bullying.
Neither of the individuals that commented said they found inappropriate material in the book.
“I really think it’s important that the library have books that are about all different kinds of kids — books about Black kids and books about Muslim kids and books about kids who only have one parent and books about kids whose parent is in the military and is deployed and books about just all different kinds of kids …” said of those testifying.
The other person who commented also supported the book to remain available to students and shared his own personal story that paralleled some of the same type of bullying that he had experienced himself growing up — a way to illustrate his point that such books can be of value to kids who are going through some of the same challenges.
“School libraries should have a free hand to curate and provide resources that reflect the interests, cultures and personalities of the entire student body,” he said.
The presentation by Folgate and Klipfel hit several points of the library acquisition process and also included information about the American Library Association’s definition of intellectual freedom, how books can be “mirrors” or “windows” and the difference between independent and required reading.
Folgate went through the criteria used in selecting books for Philomath schools with the point of always trying to maintain a balance of the different types of materials that are made available in the district’s libraries. Klipfel provided details about the various ways they find titles to go on the bookshelves and some of the goals that are discussed in the process.
Folgate said the district’s team of library media assistants are always listening for new book recommendations, an invitation that she said extends beyond the school community and parents to the general public.
The district does have a challenge policy for books and curriculum. Folgate said the first step is to have a conversation to open up the lines of communication but if that doesn’t not satisfy the concern, then a challenge form can be filled out.
The board had no questions of Folgate or Klipfel with the only followup conversation involving board chair Rick Wells needing clarification about an administrative regulation in the policy that covers book and curriculum challenges.
More news out of Thursday night’s School Board meeting will be published later this week.