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Forum scheduled to discuss book bans

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Conroy Center event to be held at TCL as BCSD reviews removed books

By Mike McCombs

Beaufort’s Pat Conroy Literary Center is hosting an event Dec. 11 entitled Book Challenges Forum – Resisting Attacks on Public Education.

The event is billed as “a public conversation with a quartet of expert panelists: educator, activist, and former South Carolina Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth; South Carolina ACLU legal fellow and legislative advocate Josh Malkin; community education advocate, consultant, and nonprofit leader AJ Davis; and journalist Paul Bowers.”

According to the Conroy Center’s promotional materials, the conversation will focus on the growing number of book challenges and bans facing school classrooms and libraries, including those here in Beaufort County. Participants will discuss the origin of book challenges, how they are funded and organized, how they are addressed by the school systems and what intellectual freedoms may be at risk when students’ access to literature is restricted or removed.

The forum, scheduled for 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 11, is free and open to the public and will be held at the Technical College of the Lowcountry’s MacLean Hall (104 Reynolds Street, Building 12).

Ninety-seven books have been removed from the shelves of libraries and classrooms in the Beaufort County School District (BCSD) while they are reviewed for their appropriateness by Library Materials Review Committees. The reviews were triggered by the complaints of a group of parents that the books were obscene and inappropriate.

The committees are randomly selected 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 will issue a written report of their findings to the appropriate parties, including the Superintendent and the Board of Education.

Four books are currently undergoing the review process  – The Handmaid’s TaleThe Perks of Being a WallflowerSpeak, and The Kite Runner. These book were given priority because they are used in some high school Advanced Placement (AP) courses.

BCSD Director of Communications Candace Bruder said two more committees are commencing this week, reviewing The Lovely Bones and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You.

According to Bruder, these books were selected because of their print availability.

At an initial meeting for these new committee members Thursday, Dec. 1, Bruder said, committee members will be provided information to ensure understanding of the review process and will receive a copy of their committee book for review. Then, as with previous committees, a subsequent meeting date will be provided for the committee to complete its review utilizing the Beaufort County School District Review Committee Checklist and issue a written report of its findings to the appropriate parties.

Bruder said four more committees and their assigned book titles will be announced Friday.

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

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