The Opt-Out Policy

Academic Freedom, Intellectual Freedom Issues, Policies

The Conejo Valley Unified School Board is meeting tonight to discuss and vote on a problematic Selection and Evaluation of Instructional Materials policy.

Jamie LaRue, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, wrote a letter (read the full letter below) expressing his concerns and encouraging the board to reject this proposed policy that includes an opt-out amendment.

“We believe that identifying books as ‘potentially objectionable’ and requiring re-approval of materials can only function as a censor’s tool that is intended to prejudice opinion and discourage the use of targeted books. Such ‘soft censorship’ impairs the educational process and denies each student’s right to read and learn from complex and challenging texts in preparation for college and career.”

The teachers and parents in Conejo Valley, Calif., are vocal and unified in their displeasure of how this policy has been crafted and presented to the board.

PolicyAs standard practice, OIF recommends the use of an opt-out policy when there are reasonable requests to have accommodations made for a student based on sincere religious or moral objections. For many school districts, curriculum opt-outs — within reasonable limits and with a credible reason — benefit both educators and parents. These policies should be crafted in such a way to respect a family’s values without impeding the education of other students, maligning the professional expertise of the faculty or disrupting the stability and proficiency of the classroom.

In addition to issues of First Amendment rights of the students, this policy negatively impacts the academic freedom of teachers and undermines their skills as professional educators.

Policies are crucial in the fundamental support of the right to read. Policies protect your teachers, students, schools, and libraries from censorship by objectively outlining transparent expectations and procedures.

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