One day after the Greenwich League of Women Voters (LWV) discussion on restricting access to books in school, the Superintendent of Greenwich Public Schools (GPS), Toni Jones, issued a comment to clarify the book policy in the district.
Parents, especially those who spent years warning about age appropriateness of books in the library and in the classroom, were surprised that Jones finally said something in her weekly email, and remarked "it's about time we started to talk about the books."
"We appreciate the involvement, passion, and differing viewpoints of GPS families, especially when it comes to the topic of what books are available," said Jones in the email.
She then went on to make a distinction between curriculum books and library books. Curriculum books are meant to teach the GPS curriculum-focused state standards, while library books are "not assigned" and include a wide variety of PK-12+ literature selections.
Jones assured the GPS community that the district's media specialists did an "outstanding job" of keeping the media centers "current".
She indicated that a number of challenged books will remain on the library shelves at middle schools, including: “And Tango Makes Three,” “Captain Underpants,” “Drama,” “George,” “Harry Potter,” “Skippyjon,” “Stamped,” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Other challenged books have been relocated from middle school libraries to Greenwich High School, including: “The Absolute True Diary of A Part-Time Indian,” “All American Boys,” “Beyond Magenta,” “The Hate U Give,” "Kite Runner,” and “Speak.”
One controversial book recently found in Dundee Elementary School, It's Perfectly Normal, has reportedly been lost.
Another book, Fun Home, was previously removed from GPS and placed in the adult section of the Greenwich Public Library after being challenged by Greenwich Patriots.
Parents can look to Board policies and regulations 1312R for guidance on making complaints about instructional or general materials, and 6120R04 for information on curriculum, lesson planning, and the vetting rubric that staff utilize to assess classroom items.
The online card catalog for GPS libraries can be searched here.
GPS last updated the Selection Process for School Library Materials Policy on October 23, 2023.
The policy details the following, largely subjective, considerations for the Library Media Specialist when choosing library materials:
The policy also says that "materials selected should contribute to the overall balance of the collection in presenting multiple viewpoints related to controversial issues to foster critical thinking skills and encourage discussion based on rational analysis (Board Policy 6144)."
Concerned parents at the LWV's talk on books wondered exactly which critical thinking skills were being fostered for minors by stocking the library with novels depicting oral sex scenes, detailing the ins and outs of anal sex, telling kids how sex apps work, and so forth.
The GPS library policy identifies a number of progressive resources that librarians can reference when selecting books, including Common Sense Media (which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Chan Zuckerberg), the Marxist-led American Library Association (ALA), BookList (which is an ALA initiative), School Library Journal, and Herb Simon's Kirkus Reviews, among others.
Jones clarified in her email that sources like Common Sense Media and Amazon ratings are used to inform age appropriateness.
For instance, the graphic novel Juliet Takes a Breath is currently available in Greenwich High School, probably because Amazon identifies the reading ages as 14-17 and because it says the book is suitable for students in grades 7-9.
Meanwhile, Rated Books, a book rating website that aligns its rating system more closely to movie ratings, says the book should not be available to anyone under the age of 18 due to the presence of graphic sexual activities, nudity, drug use and more.
Parents said the example clearly highlights the subjective nature of the book selection process, and how the process appears to be biased in favor of progressives. They think the school should seek feedback from the community on what standards should be followed, especially for sexually-explicit and adult-rated content in school libraries.
As Joe Solari, one of the Founders of Concerned Greenwich Parents and a member of the Executive Committee of the Greenwich Republicans noted, "Our schools should be focused on academic, artistic and athletic excellence. Our schools should be protecting and guiding our children. They should be preserving their innocence, not corrupting it, maintaining the trust of their parents when acting in loco parentis, not violating it."
At least parents now have a better idea where to focus their efforts in order to effect change.