By Laura Tharnish –
With all of the resources at our fingertips these days it’s difficult to imagine a time when students weren’t able to read books that we rank as classics. We at Lincoln High have access to a wide variety of books, I decided to look into how LPS and LHS handle placing and removing books in our school district.
To begin my research I spoke with Mary Reiman, Director of Media Services at LPS for 11 years, about banned books. I started off by asking if anyone has requested for a book to be removed from a school?
“Yes. We have had several citizens requests for reconsideration forms that have come to the district level.” I asked if any of them had gone all the way through and had a book removed? Reiman answered “No. But they have completely gone through the process, the reconsideration process. Nothing has been removed,” said Reiman.
When I asked Reiman to briefly explain the process of reconsidering a book she explained to me that “the process really is about someone from the community asking for us to reconsider placement of a resource. So when a parent or a community member might ask about a book, might be in a school library or might be used in a classroom as a textbook, then that is requested first in the building… The classroom teacher first talks to the person. If it’s not resolved at that level then it goes to the principal at the building. If they still have questions then they can request a form which is called ‘Citizens Reconsideration.”
I asked if that’s the end, once they fill out the form then they hand it in and it’s taken away from there? Reiman replied, “The person fills that out, and returns it to Dr. Stavem our Associate Superintendent for Instruction. It goes back to her office, and then it either comes to me if it’s a book from the library that they’re concerned about, or it goes to the Director of Curriculum if it is a book that’s used in a classroom. Whichever one of us it goes to then we form a committee of teachers, librarians, and principals from different buildings at that level.”
Reiman continued, “So if it’s a book that’s in middle school, then it would be middle school classroom teachers, middle school librarians, and middle school principals. Some people from the district office who are perhaps literacy coaches, or the Curriculum Specialist, Language Art Curriculum Specialist. Then they form a committee, read the book, review it and then talk about the alignment with the selection policy for the district. We have a selection policy that anyone can find on the Lincoln Public School’s web page, it’s along with all our other policies on how we decide on what selections we make.”
It’s important that the person requesting the book to be removed has actually read the book and can explain why they think the book should be removed. The long process isn’t to deter someone from requesting the reconsideration of a book. Instead it’s effective in giving everyone an insight into why this book struck a chord in the person requesting it to be reconsidered.
The staff of LPS, and the staff of Lincoln High want the students to have access to a full range of materials, something for everyone. I recently interviewed Media Specialist Paula McClung, about banned books. McClung said, “The only thing I have had is a person who wanted to verify that we had a Bible in our collection, and [I] showed them and shared yep we have the Bible, we have the Koran… Its trying to be as all inclusive of all religions as we can, and all beliefs and faiths,” said McClung “The nice thing about a high school library is you are starting to reach kids where they’re making more decisions about what they want to read,” McClung added.
I asked McClung if she thought that LPS is better than other school districts in America when it comes to not banning, not having as many problems with books? “I think depending on the school district and the community,” McClung answered. “We’re very lucky at Lincoln High that we have such a global society and groups of students from a wide variety of backgrounds. I just think that leads to more open discussion and maybe an understanding that sometimes reading about a topic educates someone, rather than those who feel reading about a topic corrupts someone.”