BY KARISSA MILLER
The Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education on Monday continued to discuss the policy and procedures for removing school library books and other instructional materials. The discussion wasn’t on Monday’s agenda, but it was added after the board voted to include it as a discussion-only item.
Board policy No. 3200 addresses the selection of materials and board policy No. 3210 outlines the parental inspection of and objection to instructional materials.
“Parents have a right under federal law to inspect all instructional materials which will be used in connection with any survey, analysis or evaluation as part of any applicable federally funded programs,” according to Policy 3210.
Furthermore, it states that parents can submit an objection to the principal in writing. Next, the principal may establish a committee to review the objection.
According to Board Policy 3210:
“While input from the community may be sought, the board believes professional educators are in the best position to determine whether a particular instructional material is appropriate for the age and maturity of the students and for the subject matter being taught.”
“If the principal or the committee determines that any material violates constitutional or other legal rights of the parent or student, the principal or the committee shall either remove the material from instructional use or accommodate the particular student and parent.”
Kubiniec says the board doesn’t know procedures
Vice Chair Mike Kubiniec, who led the discussion, said that nobody on the board knows what the district’s procedures are for having a book removed.
“We’ve never seen a copy. What we would like to see is a copy of those procedures,” he said. “There’s a misunderstanding and lack of trust (with the public).”
Kubiniec mentioned that the board approves school policies, but that Superintendent Jeff James is the one that implements procedures for the policies that they set in place.
If a parent challenges a book, then that parent would be informed of the procedures, the superintendent said. James told the board that he will give them a written copy of the procedures since it is a hot button topic in regards to the books and objectionable materials.
The next part of the discussion was whether or not the board should change the current procedure.
The superintendent recommended keeping the procedure that is in place. He said that the district needs a process that is not biased as reflected in earlier court cases.
James said that the district developed a robust policy, with the assistance of the school board attorney, to comply with federal and state laws.
He also pointed out that some books are abridged and don’t contain some of the graphic material contained in an original book. One safeguard, James mentioned, is simply asking the school for a report of what their child has checked out.
Board member Doug Knight voiced support to leave the procedure for removing books alone.
“Why change a policy? Why change a test – if you don’t have a metric that shows if it’s working?” Knight said.
He also added, “If we are going to take away a book, we better have a deliberate process that uses as much as we can the community standard—not just me and my friends as the standard.”
Public participation policy discussion
Kubiniec also led a brief discussion on a change that he would like to see in the board’s public participation policy, which sets the rules for the public comment period at the board meeting each month.
He said that the current policy doesn’t allow for the board to respond to the public’s comments during the public comment period.
Kubiniec asked for the board to consider a revision that would change the language to say “may respond to speakers and chairperson would determine the extent and length of time to that commentary.”
“I think that would show and demonstrate to the public that we hear them and we voice their concerns,” Kubiniec said.
Board member comments
Board member Abby Trent said that comments were made during the public comment period that indicated that she is a member of Moms for Liberty.
“I have been personally on the receiving end of personal attacks from that group. So I removed myself from that group a long time ago,” Trent said.
During Kubinec’s update, he asked for the Democratic Party and other social media groups to make a retraction to a post that accused him of banning books that Moms for Liberty and other groups find offensive.
He said if the change was not done by noon Tuesday that the person would face litigation.
Immediately after that, Kubiniec promoted “Constitution Day” on September 18. Kubiniec said that he’s soliciting staff and volunteers to come out to the schools for a few hours that day. Some of the following would be activities centered around the Pledge of Allegiance, founding of America, founding documents and other related events.
Knight told his fellow board members that he believes it is best for the board not to make posts on social media. He said that it’s a good practice and one that the school board association recommends.
Anita Kurn said the board isn’t elected to ban any books, but simply wants to make sure that kids are safe.
“We want to make sure that all the books are at an age-appropriate level. That’s it,” Kurn said.
She also thanked the superintendent for the good work that he’s doing and the staff.
Board member Charles Kelly had some advice for the board.
“We are school board members. So, whenever you make a response or comment, the first thing people say is you are a school board member. Make sure what we say is in line with what we are supposed to be doing,” Kelly said.
Chairman Bill Howell talked about the dangers of censorship.
“We have groups that describe themselves as patriots, but are you for the United States or are you for a certain way of thinking?” he asked.
Howell asked for the citizens of Iredell County to come together for the children and their way of life. He said the Constitution calls for freedom of religion. Furthermore, he added, “we cannot force a person to believe one way like the Chinese do.”
Board member Brian Sloan joined the meeting remotely Monday night.