Who’ll decide about books for S.C. school library shelves?
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Decisions about what books are on school library shelves across South Carolina could soon be under the control of leaders in Columbia.
It comes as conservative groups’ challenges to school library books are growing nationwide, especially targeting materials with racial or LGBTQ-plus themes.
Right now, if someone thinks a school library book is inappropriate, they can file a complaint with the district and its school board.
If that person doesn’t agree with their local school board’s decision, that’s generally the end of the conversation.
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But proposed regulation would allow that person to appeal to the South Carolina Board of Education.
The state board would have final say over whether that book can be on shelves in the district where it was challenged – and in every other school library across South Carolina.
Because the state board’s ruling would apply statewide.
This regulation outlines a two-prong test to determine whether materials are OK – they must be “educationally suitable and aligned with the purpose of South Carolina’s instructional program” – state standards – and “age and developmentally appropriate.”
The proposal says books are inappropriate if they include descriptions or depictions of sexual conduct – or those considered “obscene” or “indecent” under the law.
“Freedom to read does not mean freedom to give a child material that he or she is not prepared to process emotionally,” said Kay Mein, a supporter of the proposed legislation.
But other parents and educators told state board members Tuesday that this would strip local school boards of their authority to determine what’s in their schools – based on their own community standards.
“With all due respect, we do not want the state coming in and overriding what we’ve done locally,” said Melinda Hendrickson, an opponent of the regulation. “We don’t want the state taking over control of our local school board and our public libraries.”
The state board advanced the proposal Tuesday but didn’t vote on whether it’ll actually adopt it.
That’s scheduled for early next year, when there will also be an opportunity for public comment.
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