BY MIKE FUHRMAN

The Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education has taken a stand for common sense and for parental rights in the face public pressure from a group of would-be book-banners who are actively working to destabilize public education.

A month after a Moms for Liberty member accused I-SS school libraries of providing students with access to “pornographic literature,” the district has stood its ground.

This week folks who want the district to remove 33 books from the district’s libraries asked for a private meeting with the board to discuss this matter. Such a meeting would be inappropriate and illegal under the state’s open meetings laws. 

Like the group of individuals who has attempted to disrupt meetings of the I-SS and Mooresville Graded School District board meetings with their ridiculous bond claims and “you’ve been served” battle cries, these would-be book-banners are an impediment to public education.

The district’s lead media specialist explained during a board meeting earlier this month how district employees select books for school libraries and how the district responds to parental complaints about individual books.

This important work is grounded in the district’s sound policies and practices.

Media specialists, working in conjunction with their principals, select new books each year based on the recommendations of education and library organizations and respected publishing industry leaders. These decisions are made at the school level, according to Karen Van Vliet, the district’s lead media specialist. Each school’s unique mission and demographics, as well as the age appropriateness of individual books, are considered when books are being evaluated, she explained.

District libraries house over 300,000 books. According to VanVliet, I-SS students checked out 25,000 books in February and more than 160,000 titles have been checked out since the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

I-SS principals and media specialists are currently reviewing complaints about 33 books across the district.

When a parent files a complaint with their child’s principal about a particular book, it begins a process in which a committee of teachers — from across different grade levels and subject matters — at that school reviewing the complaint and the book. That nine-member committee then determines if the book is appropriate for that school library. 

Only one book had actually been challenged by a parent through the end of February so it’s clear that this is not an issue that is keeping most parents up at night. Given the proliferation and popularity of video games, Tik Tok videos and social media, parents should be excited to see their kids reading.

While a thorough review of the 33 books being challenged is underway, Superintendent Jeff James has expressed his concern that today’s students are much more likely to encounter pornographic material on their smart phones than they are in any I-SS school library.

“We definitely want to assure the public we do not purchase pornography,” James told the board earlier this month. “It does not exist” in I-SS school libraries, he added. 

The superintendent said all parents should be cognizant of what books their children are reading and make sure the material is appropriate for their age and social-emotional development level.

The I-SS Board approved minor tweaks to the district’s book challenge policy earlier this week. Those changes give the superintendent and school board a larger role in these challenges. A committee appointed by the superintendent would review books in instances where a school committee’s decision is appealed.

In addition to supporting the policy revisions, the board demonstrated their support for the media specialists and principals who are dealing with nonsensical calls for book bans and false allegations about pornography in school libraries.

Board member Bill Howell made it clear that members of the public “do not have the right” to walk into an I-SS school and inspect books on the library shelves, as the Moms for Liberty representative requested last month.

And Chairman Todd Carver cautioned against caving into the complaints of those who have jumped on the book-banning bandwagon.

“We need to be careful with this,” he said. “It’s a slippery slope.”

The chairman also thanked the handful of media specialists who attended Committee of the Whole meeting earlier this month for their work.

“We’re going to get through this. What you do is important,” Carver said. “What you do is important for our children.”

The district will get through this if the I-SS Board continues to support its professional media specialists and principals — and refuses to give in to the demands of these fringe groups.

Mike Fuhrman is editor of Iredell Free News.

21 thoughts on “Viewpoint: Iredell-Statesville Schools takes common-sense approach to book challenges

  1. Barb Thorson says:

    The district media person explained the process at the meeting. Thank you!!!! There is a process to prevent folks from eliminating/banning books “they” feel should not be in the school. When I first came to Iredell the children’s book, “Where the Wild Things Are” was removed because one of the characters “looked like a monster.”
    Are you kidding me – to me it did not look like a monster.

  2. What is a Professional Media Specialist? Sounds like a made up job to justify a public school pension.

    • Librarian used to be the name of their position. Media specialists handle much more than books in today’s schools, so that is the reason for the change in titles.

    • Sheila Nance says:

      Media Specialist has, at minimum, typically a 4 year degree in Library Sciences. Most media specialists now also have additional degrees for training in computers, web engineering, and IT.

      They are very busy tending to every technological need within their school.

      If you would like more information, I would be glad to refer you to my friend who has a Masters degree in library science from Duke and works for Duke University.

    • Media Specialist are both librarian and device managers. The are responsible for the media center (library), as well as every device issued to students, faculty, and staff. It’s a tough job. Maybe you should research something before you criticize it!

    • “ Media specialist is a title typically given to a librarian in a school media center who assists faculty with curriculum development’

    • Diana C Levan says:

      I would encourage any of you to actually do some investigating before you assume that you know what this position is. These people are highly educated and trained in their jobs. Jobs that have a very important place in any school. Who do you think handles computer issues along with just standing in charge of books? Yes, they are Media Specialist. And, as with any business organization, there has to be a top notch person helping all other people in their field. A person who develops and trains the group on new procedures and the ever changing tech world we live in today.

  3. Mary Englebert says:

    Excellent. If that very, very tiny set of book-banning blowhards want to keep specific books from THEIR children, they should follow the advice offered and “police” THEIR own children’s reading matter instead of trying to nterfere in the education of other people’s children. There are plenty of ultra-conservative “Christian” schools and academies who will be happy to help them do so.

  4. It is not a “fringe” group when parents ban together to ensure the quality of what their children are subjected to in our schools. Here again, you are promoting division amongst the town. One very positive thing that has come out of this whole “plandemic” is that parents were able to see for themselves what their children are reading and what is being promoted in the educational system. There are nefarious forces at work to brainwash the young so they will just fall in line as they get older. You sir, are also part of the problem by supporting this liberalist agenda.

    • Ann, I had to read your post twice to fully grasp what you were trying to say. First of all, parents were finally able to see what their kids are reading … Wow! Has it been hidden from you? If a kid can hide a book from you, what are they hiding on the internet? Worry more about that and let the kids read books. So from what I gather is that are nefarious forces trying to brainwash our children into falling in line … What might those be? Tic Tok? Facebook? Your TV? Your church? Why is the gentle author supporting the liberal agenda? For trying to explain the situation without bias? Just because you don’t care for his viewpoint don’t label it as something off putting or negative. What if your unbrainwashed child saved from the ravages of decent literature doesn’t like your viewpoints? You seriously and truly want to help keep kids from being brainwashed into blindly following without thinking for themselves??? Then move all religious text to the fiction section where they belong.

    • As a parent with children who attended ISS, I was always able to see what exactly my children were reading, either by asking them or their teachers, and by looking at the required reading list. In my humble opinion,”… one VERY positive thing to come out of the plandemic (sic) is that parents were able to see for themselves what …” their childrens’ teachers deal with in the classroom daily.

  5. Kris Sherrill says:

    Author of article appears ever so ‘slightly’’ bias. Doesn’t make for good reporting; just like MSM of today.

  6. Woke liberal lunatics lead just about every public school system in the nation nowadays. It began in the sixties and I witnessed its beginning. School faculty and leadership would do well to remember they’re going to stand before a Holy Righteous God one day and give Him an account! Wailing and gnashing of teeth will will be common that day.

  7. Gary Hennel says:

    In my youth if told a book was banned I would find it and read it. I don’t believe kids have changed and would support their request to locate banned books. Liberty does not wear blinders!

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