Greenwich Public Schools policy 612R04: Curriculum, Lesson Planning and Vetting Regulation details the district’s commitment to providing all students with a consistent learning experience aligned with the Connecticut Core Standards.
It also outlines the district's “Academic Freedom for Teaching” policy which states that teachers should teach to the Connecticut Core Standards, and utilize Greenwich Public Schools provided themes, lessons, and content so that there is consistency from one classroom to the next and one building to the next. However, “careful vetting” of any additional materials, such as technology resources, articles, pictures, books, videos and video clips is required.Teachers must consider the developmental appropriateness (emotional and intellectual) by age level for all materials.
The policy specifically states that “R” rated material should not be utilized with students who are under 17, and further that parent's consent is not adequate to override mature age content.
This means that the district clearly recognizes that age-appropriateness is an important factor when considering whether content is suitable for students.
But what if this policy was applied to books in the library? What if books that are rated “not for children under 17” were actually not available for those under 17 because the content was deemed developmentally inappropriate? And since we already know there are real risks to children who are exposed to content before they are developmentally ready to process it, wouldn’t the district want to ensure age-appropriateness of all content available to its students?
That’s exactly why Rated Books was started.
The site provides a content-based rating guide for books on a scale from 0 (for everyone) to 5 (aberrant content, adult only). The rating system was based on the Movie Picture Association of America Ratings system, just like the Greenwich Academic Freedom for Teaching policy. Definitions for ratings were derived from legal statutes and widely-accepted community standards.
All of the books that have been rated so far are contained in a searchable spreadsheet that includes a link to a detailed report with the specific reasons for the rating, along with excerpts and images from the books.
It turns out Greenwich has 40 books that are rated either “4" (explicit sexual content, obscene references to sex activities) or "5" (explicit references to aberrant sexual activities) — these books are deemed not suitable for anyone under the age of 18 due to the presence of mature, adult content. It’s important to note that some of these books are currently located in middle schools in Greenwich. That means children as young as 11 years old could have access to some of this very mature, adult-only content.
The next rating category, “3”, contains books that are considered “minor restricted” and parental guidance is strongly recommended. Greenwich schools stock 75 titles rated “3” including books like Felix Ever After, Lawn Boy, Flamer and Welcome to St. Hell: My Trans Teen Misadventure, all of which are frequently challenged books.
As far as we know, only one book has been removed from Greenwich Schools - the book “Fun Home” - which contained shocking images of oral sex that administrators immediately recognized as mature content that was inappropriate for students. This book carries a rating of “4” from Rated Books. (See images from Fun Home here.)
If Fun Home was too inappropriate for Greenwich, what about the other 40 books rated “4” and “5”? What about the 75 books rated “minor restricted”? What is the policy there?
Obviously, no one is calling for book bans here. A true “ban" would require stopping publishers from printing and selling this content altogether, and literally no one is demanding that.
Instead, parents recognize that the school already has a policy in place for determining the appropriateness of content for students.
Parents are simply asking the district to apply the same policy it employs for other “R” rated content to books in the library, which seems like a reasonable approach.
Besides, if certain parents are still determined to put adult content into the hands of their own children, they can always get it from the library or Barnes and Noble.
P.S. Use this link to see all of the books in Greenwich Public Schools rated “3", “4" or “5” by Rated Books. The spreadsheet contains links so you can see the content that was flagged, along with pictures from the books.