During school board discussion new book policy adopts changes

Posted 3/7/23

The pending book policy in Park County School District 1 will likely require three readings — the most given to policies in the district before adoption.

The adoption and removal of library …

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During school board discussion new book policy adopts changes


The pending book policy in Park County School District 1 will likely require three readings — the most given to policies in the district before adoption.

The adoption and removal of library materials in schools has been at the forefront of state and national discussions, so by carefully crafting a new policy the hopes are that complete reconsideration of library materials will be a last resort.

The policy and possible amendments were discussed during the school board’s workshop meeting Feb. 28. 

Superintendent Jay Curtis told board members that he received very few comments about the policy during its first review period. He said that he had only received two comments on the policy draft including one email asking for clarification on wording in the rating scale. The other comment came verbally from Powell High School Principal Tim Wormald who voiced concern about principals serving as chairmen of book reconsideration committees. 


How would you rate this book on a scale of one to five?

As the wording currently stands in the policy draft, when books are adopted into district libraries they will be rated on a scale of zero to five. This scale provides a checklist of what content would qualify a book for certain age levels. Following Tuesday’s meeting, when the policy is next seen by the school board the rating scale will feature only four tiers.

“Basically anything that is a four or five in my mind is in the same category and should not be in our schools,” Curtis said.

He recommended changing the wording “aberrant sexual activities” to “profoundly pornographic images,” and including this description in the level four rating. Curtis added he would like to add to the policy that the principal or librarian is responsible for the content ratings. If parents are not comfortable with books that stay on the shelves, the policy offers other actions that the parent can take such as restricting the book for their child or asking that the book’s presence in the library be reconsidered.

The board consented to these changes which were not voted on but will be added for voting at the next school board meeting.


Whose book is it anyway?

Also retooled was the makeup of reconsideration committees as described in the current draft. Following conversations with Wormald, Curtis suggested adding the wording “principal or designee,” rather than just principal. The purpose of this is to avoid principals’ other duties becoming overshadowed by serving on book committees. Trustee Laura Riley, who served with Curtis on the committee that drafted the policy, raised the idea that the principal should not pick the other district representatives to avoid the appearance bias since the principal also serves as the tiebreaker. Board chairman Kim Dillivan said that when he read the policy he understood that the principal in question could be any building principal. The possibility of the policy being reworded so the superintendent would choose the other district representatives and the principal would serve only as the committee chairman and tie breaker was also discussed.

The trustees and Curtis decided to add the language, “building principal or designee,” to make it clear which principal would serve as chairman unless they decide to appoint a designee within the district.

Curtis will work on developing the language for this component of the policy for second reading.


Selection committee of one?

Potential wording was submitted to the board to provide the librarian with an advisory committee for material selection and adoption, but the board ultimately decided to keep school librarians responsible for material selection and adoption.  Curtis had drafted the potential wording in case the board was of the opinion that district librarians may need the extra layer of protection from potential criticism, but maintained that it was the board’s decision.

Curtis noted that in the process of drafting the policy this was a point of disagreement as he thought that an advisory committee should exist while Otto said librarians are professionals with training who are under a level of scrutiny that others are not.

Curtis said he debated this in committee and acknowledged that while the current librarians are diligent, a policy shouldn’t be based on current staff alone. Curtis told the board while his viewpoint did not receive support in committee it was later backed up by other members through email.

“Hopefully, these are long term staff and if a librarian that we might have for 10 years, or plus, I don’t know [Otto] if this is something that she is comfortable with and the other librarians I would say the nod to them would be good, especially if she’s comfortable with the language and willing to take the heat, if you will,” trustee Beau Fulton said. “But the layers prevent that from happening.”

Riley also agreed with leaving the job to librarians because of their use of multiple screening tools, training and the possibility that an advisory committee could slow the process.


Any other questions?

Curtis and the board also briefly discussed the time period in which a review policy must first meet to discuss a book and the wording on the reconsideration form. After Curtis consults administrators, wording will be added that books submitted for reconsideration will be considered consecutively. This means that if multiple books are submitted at once a large number of committees do not have to form within 60 days.

Riley also addressed the board regarding two formal hearings being outlined within the policy. She said that if the book does not pass the first formal hearing the book will ultimately be seen by the board. The remaining members of the board and Curtis agreed with this point which will be amended for second reading.

The policy will next be seen at the March 21 meeting for a second reading.

If the policy is not approved following a third reading it will be sent back to the drawing board.