Kansas school district rejects parents’ concerns over inappropriate library books

(The Sentinel) – The USD 450 Shawnee Heights school district has twice rejected parents’ concern that their children are exposed to pornography and other objectionable content in four library…

(The Sentinel) – The USD 450 Shawnee Heights school district has twice rejected parents’ concern that their children are exposed to pornography and other objectionable content in four library books.  Now they are appealing to the school board’s Review Committee, which will make a recommendation to the board, and the board can either accept or reject the committee’s decision.

Here is an excerpt from one of the books, entitled “All Boys Aren’t Blue.”

“He reached his hand down and pulled out my dick. He quickly went to giving head.”

One parent, Jill Foster-Koch, met with her childrens’ school principals to no avail.  She then appealed to Shawnee Heights Superintendent Tim Hallacy.  He said in his two-page rejection that not all parents share her objections:

”The reality of your request is it would deny access to these resources for everyone else. I believe other students and parents are best positioned to make those decisions for themselves. I will not remove or restrict these books for others.”

Foster-Koch and another parent, Tim Watts, have spearheaded the months-long effort, and are now in the final stage of the district’s appeal process. Foster-Koch’s role began last fall when her daughter’s English class was assigned to read “The Hate You Give” in which a black female narrator discusses issues of class, culture, and race. “All Boys Aren’t Blue” and two other books — “Beyond The Gender Binary” and ”Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness” — were found after a search of the district’s library catalog.

The parents believe these books contain inappropriate language and content and seek to have them removed from the district library. USD 450 maintains the books expand opportunities for discussion and critical thinking, and say they must consider all patrons and children rather than a vocal number of protestors.

Foster-Koch, who has three children in the Shawnee Heights District, says she’s not a book-burner:

“I’m not for banning books but I am for protecting our children from inappropriate, sexually explicit, and pornographic material. There are books out there that can tell a story without having to subject children to such adult content. I would like to see schools remove these books and others with similar content. Change the school policy.  It’s easy to get a book added into the library but extremely difficult to have them removed. Create a book review committee before books are put on the shelves or as assigned reading in classrooms. Do something better than the current process.

“If schools are not willing to remove the books, I would like parental permission to be required for these books to be checked out and parents notified when they are so that conversations can be had at home. There needs to be more transparency and accountability with our schools. Parents should be made aware of what our students are exposed to and involved in at school. Just because society changes, doesn’t mean our moral values should change, too.”

Board President Rocky Busenitz says he expects a timely decision by the advisory committee, but no meeting dates have been scheduled.

“The materials needed for the review committee arrived over break. The committee will be able to begin their review process shortly.”

Tim Watts concludes his effort is intended to keep the district focused on student preparedness following high school:
“The reason I continue to work towards keeping the curriculum centered around meaningful and relevant topics is (that) that is what the public education system is designed to do. What “All boys aren’t blue” talks about isn’t relevant or beneficial to the classroom. It isn’t helping prepare our students to make positive impacts in society or teach them usable life lessons.

“Rape, incest, and pedophilia are controversial and sensitive topics. Many of the stories are presented in a way that grooms a child to think these situations are OK and happen sometimes.  This is not an acceptable way to teach children or expose them to these subjects.

“We need to focus on STEM, social skills, critical thinking, and community service in public education and it is time for our community, BOE, and administration to step up to the plate. As a majority of our graduating students are not fully meeting state assessment standards our BOE and administration continues to not focus on future preparedness but allows more unneeded and inappropriate curriculum into the library and classrooms.”