By Mike McCombs
With little public discussion, the Beaufort County Board of Education on Tuesday night upheld the recent decisions of the first six Library Materials Review Committees to return to the shelves books that had been removed this past fall after complaints related to their appropriateness.
The Board of Education was ruling on appeals from Mike Covert and Ivie Szalai, the two original complainants. Their nearly identical lists – Covert’s list was the same as Szalai’s, plus one additional book – are the basis for the 97 books removed from Beaufort County School District libraries and classrooms in October.
The board voted 8-2-1 to uphold the decisions of the first six committees.
Board Member Richard Geier (District 4) made a motion, which Earl Campbell (D-1) seconded, to “concur with the findings of the Book Review Committees” for the first six books.
The first four books had all been returned to the shelves in some fashion by the first four committees seated. These books were addressed first because of their use in Advanced Placement programs.
Speak was returned to library circulation by a vote of 4-1. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, The Kite Runner and The Handmaid’s Tale were all returned to circulation unanimously, 6-0, for Grades 9 through 12 only.
Books 5 and 6 were reviewed in the next group of committees.
Committee No. 5 voted unanimously, 6-0, to return The Lovely Bones to the shelves for Grades 6 through 12, while Committee No. 6 voted, unanimously, as well, 4-0, to return Stamped: Racism, Antiracism And You to the shelves for Grades 6 through 12.
Committee No. 6 was split, 2-2, failing to return Stamped to the shelves for Grades K through 5.
Board members Rachel Wisnefski (D-7) and Elizabeth Hey (D-10) raised concerns that the make-up of the committees is not representative enough of the district, with too many district employees included.
However, the District not only followed the state guidelines for the makeup of the committees, they actually added an additional community member, exceeding the state’s requirements.
Victor Ney (D-5) was disappointed in the level of discussion by the board about the specific appeals. And he voiced his concern that returning these books to the shelves wasn’t fiscally responsible.
For the deciding vote, Hey and Ney were the two in opposition, while Wisnefski abstained.
After the vote, Wisnefski made a motion to instruct Superintendent Frank Rodriguez to develop a ratings system for books for the opt-out forms, which parents can use to keep their children from having access to certain books.
The motion was eventually amended to “direct the Superintendent to re-evaluate the opt-out for recreation resources in our media centers.” That motion eventually carrried, 7-4.
In the public comments at the end of the meeting, Covert commented by phone.
“Obviously, I am extremely disappointed in our decision,” he said, criticizing the makeup f the committees and, at one point, asking if any of the 11 school board members actually read his appeal at all.
To once again recap, 97 books were removed from the shelves of libraries and classrooms in the BCSD in October and are all to be reviewed for their appropriateness by the committees. The reviews were triggered by the complaints that the books were obscene and inappropriate. Two nearly identical lists of books were submitted by former Beaufort County Councilman and Republican politician Mike Covert and Beaufort resident Ivie Szalai.
The committees must consist, per state guidelines, of a school librarian, a district teacher, a parent (other than the complainant), a school administrator, a district-level administrator, and a member of a School Improvement Council in the district. The BCSD added a seventh member to the committees – a community member.
The committees are being randomly selected by Rodriguez and are tasked, according to the BCSD, “with reading their assigned book in full and then meeting as a group to share and discuss findings. The value of the book is to be examined as a whole, considering the impact of an entire work, transcending individual words, phrases, and incidents.”
The committees are meeting and completing their reviews utilizing the BCSD Review Committee Checklist and issuing written reports of their findings to the appropriate parties, including the Superintendent and the Board of Education.
Appeals, like the first six filed, are to be heard and decided by the Board of Education.
THE REMOVED BOOKS
The list of 97 books removed from Beaufort County School District Library shelves and any action taken by review committees, including appeals heard by the Board of Education:
1. A Lesson in Vengeance
2. All Boys Aren’t Blue
3. All the Things We Do in the Dark
4. Almost Perfect
5. Ask the Passengers
7. Boy Girl Boy
10. City of Heavenly Fire
11. Clockwork Princess
13. Confess: A Novel
14. Cool for the Summer
15. Court of Frost and Starlight
16. Court of Mist and Fury
17. Court of Thorns and Roses
18. Court of Wings and Ruin
19. Crank (Under review)
21. Eleanor and Park
22. Empire of Storms
23. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
26. Felix Ever After
28. Forever for a Year
29. Foul is Fair
30. Gabi, A Girl in Pieces
31. Glass (Under review)
32. Go Ask Alice (Under review)
36. Half of a Yellow Sun
38. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
39. I’ll Give You the Sun
41. Impulse (Under review)
42. It Ends With Us (Under review)
43. Kingdom of Ash
44. Last Night at the Telegraph Club
46. Leah on the Offbeat
47. Living Dead Girl
49. Looking for Alaska (Under review)
51. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
52. Milk and Honey (Under review)
53. Monday’s Not Coming
54. More Happy Than Not
55. Nineteen Minutes
56. November 9
57. Oryx and Crake
58. Out of Darkness
61. Ramona Blue
62. Red at the Bone
69. Speak (Returned to circulation; upheld on appeal)
70. Stamped (Returned to circulation, Grades 6 through 12; upheld on appeal)
71. The Art of Racing in the Rain
72. The Black Flamingo
73. The Bluest Eye
74. The Carnival at Bray
75. The Duff
76. The Female of the Species
77. The Fixer
78. The Freedom Writers Diary (Under review)
79. The Handmaid’s Tale (Returned to circulation, Grades 9 through 12; upheld on appeal)
80. The Haters
81. The Infinite Moment of Us
82. The Kite Runner (Returned to circulation, Grades 9 through 12; upheld on appeal)
83. The Lovely Bones (Returned to circulation, Grades 6 through 12; upheld on appeal)
84. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Returned to circulation, Grades 9 through 12; upheld on appeal)
85. The Poet X (Under review)
86. The Truth About Alice
87. The Upside of Unrequited
88. The You I’ve Never Known
89. Thirteen Reasons Why (Under review)
90. This One Summer
92. Tower of Dawn
94. Water for Elephants
Mike McCombs is the Editor of The Island News and can be reached at TheIslandNews@gmail.com.