The True Adventures of a High School Librarian

The True Adventures of a High School Librarian

Monday, April 2, 2012

Challenged Materials: Do You Have a Plan?


Last month a high school librarian facing a challenged materials issue in her school contacted me and other librarians for advice on how to best handle the situation.  


THE SITUATION:
People involved: 
1. Mrs. C, classroom teacher who rarely visits the library (whose husband was just elected a judge in their county).  
2.  Dr. S, high school principal.
3.  Mrs. L, high school librarian
4.  Dr. R, Assistant School Superintendent 


Challenge Material:
Seventeen Magazine subscription


The Challenge:
Mrs. C decided that Seventeen magazine was inappropriate for high school students.  Instead of addressing Mrs. L regarding her concerns, Mrs. C went straight to Dr. S to express her concerns.  Dr. S, without consulting the school librarian, Mrs. L, took it upon himself to remove the magazines and order Mrs. L to not display any more issues of Seventeen magazine.  While there is a board approved challenged materials protocol it was not followed by either Mrs. C or Dr. S.  


Concerned about rocking the boat but equally concerned about further problems with Mrs. C, whose children will be students at the high school in the near future, Mrs. L reached out the library community for advice.  


Current Progress Made:

An update from Mrs. L:  I requested a meeting with the asst. superintendent who has jurisdiction over library media specialists.  It took place in my office Friday.  Although it was apparent she had discussed the matter with the principal and takes his side, she was much more open to a two-way exchange.  Despite her best efforts, she was unable to offer one valid reason why our board-approved challenged materials policy should not be followed.  Thus, she agreed that the teacher will need to complete a challenged materials form which will be presented to a committee the principal and I will form together either this semester or early next fall.  I assume they realize that challenged materials stay on the shelves until the process has been completed and a conclusion reached.  In the end, though, Dr. S will have the final say, as I have no doubt he will scrutinize every line of every PO from now on.  But, the teacher will realize that altering our collection to suit herself will not be quite as easy as she thought.  Hopefully this will slow her down in the future.
 
I very much appreciate your input and the advice you and your contacts gave me. Otherwise, I may well not have pursued this, as I was leaning toward not rocking the boat, which would have just led to more problems in the future.  I also have done a lot of research and am much better informed now, which certainly helped me present a pretty convincing case to Dr. R, the asst. superintendent.  



Advice issued:
(I am sharing the advice given for those librarians who may also be facing a similar situation.)


Ann Marie Pipkin
Sylacauga, AL 35151: 
One of the best ways to thwart a challenge is to have a policy in place before there ever is a challenge.  If you don't have a policy in place, make it a priority if you want to be proactive about the way the library operates on all fronts. 


Wendy Stephens
@wsstephens

High school librarian, reader, and giant geek in the heart of Dixie. Google Certified Teacher, NBCT LMS. Still working on that dissertation.
Alabama · http://wendysteadmanstephens.com/
OIF will be interested in the case regardless of whether or not she is an 
ALA member. 
The reporting form
http://www.ala.org/advocacy/banned/challengeslibrarymaterials/challen...
is a little ex post facto for this situation. 
If she is anticipating getting any press coverage, I would definitely call
1-800-545-2433, ext. 4220 to get OIF involved. 
Theoretically, the principal had been signing the purchase order for this
and other periodicals, so he should have been aware the library held
Seventeen. I would be curious to know what both the principal (and the
teacher's) thinking were with regard to this decision. It does sound as if
he isn't really aware of what he has started. 
Keep us posted, I know we are all curious to know how it shakes out. 


LeeAnna Mills, NBCT
ASLA President
School Librarian 

Northside Middle School:
If she is anticipating getting any press coverage, I would definitely call 1-800-545-2433, ext. 4220 to get OIF involved. 
Theoretically, the principal had been signing the purchase order for this and other periodicals, so he should have been aware the library held Seventeen. I would be curious to know what both the principal (and the teacher's) thinking were with regard to this decision. It does sound as if he isn't really aware of what he has started. 
Keep us posted, I know we are all curious to know how it shakes out. 

Is she a member of AASL and ALA? Could she report it to them and let them help?  Has there been anything in the newspapers or online about it? If so I know the Office of Intellectual Freedom keeps up with reported challenges.

Susan Dickey
Librarian
Walker Elementary
Northport, AL  35475 


I realize that I don't know all the politics involved.  However, my first reaction is that she need to talk to the principal as if she's certain he/she is going to follow the policy.  Go in saying OK now here's what the policy says our next step should be....  This gives the principal the chance to cover himself and do the right thing.  The librarian then has some defense if the principal has been reminded of the policy and refuses to follow it. 



Molly Ann Bates
School Librarian
Scholars' Bowl Coach
Russellville Middle School
Russellville AL 35653 

I agree with LeeAnna and Wendy. 
Has she contacted her superintendent and or school board? If the challenged
materials policy is board approved, then the principal and teacher are not
following board policy.
Is the principal fearing repercussions too? 

Another thought, is she a member of AEA. If so, she needs to contact her
UniServe director ASAP. If she's not a member, now is a good time and
reason for her to join. 


Advice from my Tweeps:

Tweets from:

William Chamberlain

@wmchamberlain

Husband, Father, Teacher,Adjunct Professor, Youth Leader, DEN Star teacher,  advocate, and OG (Original Goober!)

Jennifer Northrup

@candidlibrarian

Media Specialist. Techie. Alias Junkie. Book Diva. Aspiring Author.

Melinda Sears

@theprofspage

Secondary French teacher implementing technology in my curriculum. This year, teaching French 1,2,3





Thanks also to Dan Kelley and Donna Keller for re-tweeting to their followers.

Donna Keller
@cocoranlibrary

Mom of teens with a love of children's books. Interested in the future of education in the USA.

Dan Kelley

@dpk933

HS Principal, Teacher, Father, Coach, Runner, NEU Doctoral Student




Additional comments, advice, etc is welcomed.  I will update this post as action in this case develops.
















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