Reconsider Removing “Jacob’s New Dress”

Banned and Challenged Books, GLBTQ, Policies

Jacob's New Dress book cover imageOn March 23, April Dawkins blogged about the removal of Jacob’s New Dress from a lesson on anti-bullying at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District (CMS) in North Carolina. The book was intended to be part of an anti-bullying lesson being piloted in first-grade classes at four elementary schools as part of Child Abuse Prevention Month. The lesson is part of a series from a new anti-bullying program called Welcoming Schools, sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

After receiving complaints from state legislators, Charles Jeter, CMS district’s government liaison, emailed about two dozen legislators to say CMS had agreed to pull the book.

“I wanted to reassure them that we had heard them and we were making that change,” said Jeter in an interview with the Charlotte Observer.

But the school district has not heard from everyone — because no official procedure was initiated to objectively review the book and its inclusion in this anti-bullying lesson. Those with authority and loud voices were given the power to remove the book. The American Library Association recommends that concerns about instructional materials are met with open ears and a respectful and objective procedure that includes reviews of the book, the institutions selection policy, and its use in the curriculum or collection.

To this end, Jamie LaRue, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, wrote a letter to the school board and administrators at Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District, urging them to initiate a reconsideration procedure and allow for fair and free evaluation of the book.

“Challenged materials that have been duly selected and approved by the faculty and administration pursuant to policy should not be removed from the classroom, except upon the recommendation of the reconsideration committee or upon formal action of the school board. Decisions about the availability of instructional materials – including removing or restricting students’ access to books – should be done according to written selection and reconsideration policies. Such policies and procedures are vital to preserving academic freedom and free inquiry within the school. They establish a framework for registering a complaint and provide for a hearing so that all sides may be heard and give equal weight to all voices, not just the powerful. Further, they offer important procedural and substantive protections for the student’s right to access materials, the faculty’s integrity and professional responsibilities, and the principles of free speech and freedom of information. Most importantly, written selection and reconsideration policies prevent anyone from subjectively blocking all students from accessing materials simply because he or she does not like them.”

Read the entire letter

 

While there has been no shortage of local and national news coverage and blogging about this issue, we hope you raise YOUR voice and encourage CMS to treat all books and voices equally.

CMS Contact Page and Twitter @CharMeckSchools

One thought on “Reconsider Removing “Jacob’s New Dress”

  • This case reminds us again of the importance for libraries to have a materials selection policy as well as a policy and procedure for the reconsideration of a work. Both documents provide a framework for all voices to be heard, a path to follow, and slows down any rush to judgment. As more and more school libraries find themselves without trained librarians, I fear that powerful folks (read: administrators, parents, local politicians) will dictate library collections.

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