Board again supports decisions of book committees


By Mike McCombs
The Island News

Once again Tuesday evening, the Beaufort County Board of Education reaffirmed the work of its book review committees. But there were a few hiccups this time.

The school board, however, eventually voted 7-2-1 to uphold the decisions of Committees 7 through 9 and 11 through 16 from the Thursday, Jan. 19 meeting at Okatie Elementary School, returning all nine of those books to the shelves in some fashion.

The decisions of those nine committees had each been appealed by at least one of the two original complainants – Ivie Szalai or Mike Covert. Of course, neither appealed the decision of Committee 10, which was to remove It Ends With Usby Colleen Hoover from circulation in the Beaufort County School District. It will remain out of circulation in the district for at least five years, according to policy.

The reviews of the other nine books are now complete and the results are as follows:

Committee No. 7: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur – returned to grades 9-12 only.

Committee No. 8: The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell – returned to grades 9-12 only.

Committee No. 9: Looking for Alaska by John Green – returned to grades 9-12 only.

Committee No. 11: Impulse by Ellen Hopkins – returned to grades 9-12 only.

Committee No. 12: Glass by Ellen Hopkins – returned to grades 9-12 only.

Committee No. 13: Go Ask Alice by Anonymous – returned to grades 9-12 only.

Committee No. 14: Crank by Ellen Hopkins – returned to grades 9-12 only.

Committee No. 15: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – returned to circulation.

Committee No. 16: The Poet X by Elizabeth Aceveda – returned to grades 9-12 only.

Szalai had appealed all nine books. Covert appealed all but the decisions of Committees 15 and 16.

Board member and Secretary Angela Middleton originally made the motion that the board “concurs with the findings of the Jan. 19 book review committees.”

However, Ingrid Boatwright (D-11) questioned the motion’s wording, suggesting the board should simply “find no reason to overturn the findings of the Jan. 19 book review committees.” Boatwright suggested the board’s job was to simply ensure policy was being followed, not necessarily voice agreement or disagreement with the committees’ decisions.

The board did not pass Boatwright’s amended motion. It was voted down 2-6-2.

Middleton then returned to her original motion, but board members engaged in several discussions before voting.

Rachel Wisnefski (District 7) asked why board members, this time around, had not gotten copies of the books in question to review. Apparently, the reason was financial. The Board of Education would have to approve the expenditure of purchasing those books from its own budget.

“I’d be happy to have it taken out of my salary it that’s the concern,” Wisnefski told the board.

After the meeting, Wisnefski said she was certain this issue would be discussed before the next board meeting.

Vice-Chair Richard Geier (D-4), in support of the motion, said he wouldn’t read all 97 books. He said he trusted the committees, and this is what they were charged to do.

When it comes down to it, Geier said, this is all about freedom to choose.

“We don’t force any child in this district to read a book,” he said.

Wisnefski again emphasized the need to simplify the opt-out form for parents who don’t want their kids to read books with content to which they would object.

Mary Stratos, Chief Instructional Service Office for the Beaufort County School District, told the board the opt out forms has been revised and passed along to Superintendent Frank Rodriguez, the first step among several before the board will see the new form.

Finally, William Smith (D-3) was complimentary to the high school students remaining in the room, primarily members of the group DAYLO – Diversity Awareness Youth Literacy Organization. Several members of the organization, which is in three Beaufort County Schools now – Beaufort High, Battery Creek and Beaufort Academy – spoke eloquently in opposition to removing any books.

Smith complimented their well researched commentary.

“They sit through these meetings, and they have shown that this is important to them,”Smith said. “… People take time for what’s important to them.”

Moments later, the board voted to concur with the committees’ decisions.

The entire process will start again shortly, as 10 more book review committees are set to meet Thurssday, Feb. 16 at 5:45 p.m. at Okatie Elementary School.

The next books under review include:

– Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

– Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

– I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

– Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

– Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

– Sold by Patricia McCormick

– All the Things We Do In The Dark by Saundra Mitchell

– City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

– I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez

– Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Mike McCombs is the Editor of The Island News and can be reached at TheIslandNews@gmail.com.

Note: This story was updated Feb. 17.

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