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Nampa School Board votes to remove 22 books 'forever' from school libraries

The list of banned books includes "The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, and “Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini.

NAMPA, Idaho — This story originally appeared in the Idaho Press 

The Nampa School Board voted Monday night to remove 22 books permanently from the district’s libraries.

The 22 challenged books were brought to the attention of the district and board for allegedly containing “pornography,” according to a board meeting document.

Committees composed of staff and parents were in the process of conducting a review of the books in question, but the vote effectively ends that. However, trustees expressed interest in crafting a formal process for reviewing challenged books in the future.

During a January school board meeting, a parent raised concerns during public comment about a book, said Kathleen Tuck, communications director for the district. Books that parents or community members bring to the attention of the board for allegedly questionable content are known as “challenged books.” Subsequently, the board received emails from other parents questioning the sexual content and suitability of additional books available in the district’s libraries, bringing the total to 22 titles. (The list is 24 books long, but one book was removed from library shelves prior to being challenged, while another is in the list twice.)

The books that will be permanently removed are “Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini; “Leah on the Offbeat,” by Becky Albertalli; “The Prince and the Dressmaker,” by Jen Wang; “Thirteen Reasons Why,” by Jay Asher; “The 57 Bus,” by Dashka Slater; “Drama,” by Raina Telgemeier; “Looking for Alaska,” by John Green; “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison; “The Handmaid’s Tale,” by Margaret Atwood; “l8r, g8r,” by Lauren Myracle; “Out of Darkness,” by Ashley Hope Perez; “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky; “Crank,” by Ellen Hopkins; “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian;” by Sherman Alexie; “City of Heavenly Fire,” by Cassandra Clare; “Clockwork Princess,” by Cassanrda Clare; “Eleanor and Park,” by Rainbow Rowell; “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” by Jonathan Safran Foer; “Sold,” by Patricia McCormick; “Speak,” by Laurie Halse Anderson; “33 Snowfish,” by Adam Rapp; and “It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health,” by Robie H. Harris.

Board Chair Jeff Kirkman, Vice Chair Tracey Pearson, and Trustee Marco Valle all voted in favor of removing the books “forever,” with Trustee Brook Taylor and Trustee Mandy Simpson voting against.

“I just have a hard time with ‘forever’ when a process hasn’t been completed to actually analyze and look through things,” Simpson said, adding that she is not opposed to books being taken off the shelves while they are under review.

Credit: Brian Myrick/Idaho Press
Books on shelves in the Columbia High School library.

The move is the latest in a series of efforts to remove books that include sex and sexuality from libraries across the country. The Idaho House of Representatives passed a bill that would have penalized librarians for distributing allegedly pornographic material to children, and the city of Meridian is facing a possible tort claim over allegedly questionable material in its libraries.

When the books were “challenged,” they were removed from the library shelves, said Interim Superintendent Gregg Russell. Committees of staff and parents were formed to begin reviewing the books, Tuck said.

According to a meeting document describing the review process, committee members utilized Common Sense Media as a resource, which provides a sexual content score for different books, as well as scores on other metrics, and an overall score.

The document explaining the process is dated Feb. 25, 2022, and groups the books in the list into three categories. The first category is books that should be “removed from the list of challenged books for lack of or little sexual content.” Six books appear to have been categorized that way: “Kite Runner,” “Leah on the Offbeat,” “The Prince and the Dressmaker,” “Thirteen Reasons Why,” “The 57 Bus,” and “Drama.”

For “Kite Runner,” Common Sense Media gives the book a 1 out of 5 for sexual content, and says that, “the author describes romantic love and caring adults’ desire for affection,” according to the board document. Common Sense Media gives “Thirteen Reasons Why,” which was adapted into a Netflix series, a 2 out of 5 for sexual content, saying, “there’s sexual innuendo, kissing, and touching — a boy grabs a girl’s butt,” according to the board document.

The second category in the list includes books recommended for review by a committee because they have a high sexual content rating, but also high educational value. Those seven titles include “The Bluest Eye” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

For the remaining nine novels in the list, the document presents information and says if anyone wants to “continue with a full review” of one or more books, they need to submit a “Request for Reconsideration of Library Materials” form.

A second document provided with the board agenda lists book titles and the names of parents and staff that were reviewing them. Five titles have a “complete” next to them, appearing to indicate that the committee had finished reviewing the book.

Now that all of the books are to be removed from the schools, they will likely be boxed up and taken to the district’s warehouse, Tuck said. In the meeting, Russell said that the books could be disposed of the way the district disposes of old textbooks: throwing them in the garbage.

Discussion of what to do about the books lasted for about half an hour, and centered on what should be done about the books under review as well as having a process to remove them.

The district does have a policy for challenging materials in libraries and media centers through a grievance procedure, Simpson said.

While Simpson said she understands the interest in making a new evaluation policy and reviewing the books in question, she worries about “the route we take to get there.” It is “not typically” the district’s policy to “suspend everything and just throw everything out the window until we get it fixed,” she said.

Despite Russell’s comments that the books were removed from library shelves when they were challenged, trustees appeared to think that books under review would still be available for checkout and could cause harm.

“The road that I’m proposing is to be able to remove all of the books until we figure out what that route should be,” Valle said.

Pearson added, “and to have the books on the shelf, or back on the shelf, until it goes through these lengthy processes … by that time you’ve traumatized or caused mental destruction …” she said.

“I think it’s too long of a process and to have lifetime trauma to a child that does not need to be maybe experimenting (with) something they’ve read … it’s just very destructive and scary,” Pearson said.

During the review process, a student could check out a challenged book if they presented a librarian with a verified note from a parent or guardian, Tuck said.

Russell said at the meeting that he believed the board is “well within” its purview to vote to remove the books.

Kirkman said discussing and establishing a process for reviewing challenged books will be part of a future board work session.

“This will give staff opportunity also to (provide) input,” Kirkman said.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect that Trustee Taylor also voted against the motion to remove the books.

This story originally appeared in the Idaho Press. Read more at IdahoPress.com

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