Administration with the Forsyth County School District recently decided to pull 8 titles from their media center shelves following concern from parents.
Director of Communications Jennifer Caracciolo said the books were removed two weeks ago because they contained sexually explicit content.
"The content in them was what we would consider pervasively vulgar, and it's not about whether or not a parent or guardian liked or disliked the ideas contained in the book or liked or disliked the author or the author's identity, we focused on content that was pervasively vulgar," said Caracciolo.
Caracciolo said Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Jeff Bearden received some emails from parents who read national headlines from other school districts facing the same issue. She said the parents did not name specific titles, but requested staff be aware of content in media centers.
"We have noticed as a school system that this is a nationwide movement, and we knew eventually that would be something that was localized here," said Caracciolo. "We did have a handful of parents not contact us with a specific book list, but just contacted us, [saying] 'Hey, you know, this is what's going on in the nation. Could you possibly look at some of our books and our media centers?' for sexually explicit content."
Bearden asked the school district’s Chief Technology Officer to look into the issue with a couple of other school district employees. This committee looked at titles in middle and high schools only, and found the 8 titles that were removed from media center shelves.
The removed books include:
- All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
- Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
- L8r, g8r by Lauren Myracle
- Me Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
- Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
- Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle
There were 11 copies of these eight titles throughout the entire school district.
Caracciolo said this group of three employees also found four other titles they deemed appropriate for high schoolers only. These books are:
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki
- Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
They also passed along 2 other titles to local media center review committees for further analysis. These titles are:
- Looking for Alaska by John Green
- Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany Jackson
"Each school has a local school media center committee that reviews books, so if there's a book challenge from a parent or a resident, then they go through the process and read the books and review the content," said Caracciolo. "Then they make the recommendation as a committee."
The local media center committees will decide to either remove the titles completely or move them exclusively to the high school level.
Caracciolo said there are several factors that go into a local media center review committee's decision, including district media center policy and even state curriculum guidelines.
"We realize that everyone has a personal opinion, our teachers have their personal opinions, or parents have their personal opinions," said Caracciolo. "That's why we had to look at it from a school system perspective, and what we legally had the right to do...it was looking at that pervasively vulgar content, and not about removing books simply because an individual, such as a parent, maybe dislikes the ideas contained within those books.”
Caracciolo said the committees have up to 45 days per book for review, then pass their decisions to the Chief Technical Officer for action.
If a parent disagrees with the committee’s decision, they can take their complaint to the district media committee and the process repeats itself. If the parent disagrees with the district committee’s decision, the complaint goes before the school board for a final review.
In the meantime, the four books deemed high school level only are flagged in the district’s media center catalog, so parents review the content their kids are reading. Middle school students cannot check out books at the high school level.
"We need to make sure that our parents know what their students are reading or engaged with; we encourage them to read along with them while they may be reading something," said Caracciolo. "If there is a concern, they can contact our school principal directly, and we'd be happy to work with them about what's in the library."
Hall County School District spokesman Stan Lewis said political organizations have enquired if the school has "what might be considered controversial material", but the school district has not recently removed any books from school shelves.
Gainesville City Schools spokeswoman Joy Griffin said they have not received any parental complaints either regarding sexually explicit content.