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Goddard schools return books to libraries after review

Goddard schools return books to libraries after review


The Goddard school district has returned books to the shelves of school libraries after one parent’s objection to language in a novel about the police killing of a Black teenager spurred the district to briefly remove an unknown number from circulation.

“Today, after the review, the recommendation from principals and librarians is to leave all books active and to encourage parents to contact them directly if they have questions about the books being challenged nationally,” a Wednesday afternoon district email to parents and staff said.

Goddard Assistant Superintendent Julie Cannizzo told KMUW on Tuesday that the parent filed a complaint about “The Hate U Give,” a 2017 New York Times best-selling novel by Angie Thomas that depicts the aftermath of a police killing through the eyes of a 16-year-old girl.

The parent submitted a list of 28 other books he objected to, including “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky. The district’s Wednesday email identified the list as one being used to challenge books in schools across the country.

Many books on the list feature themes about race, sexual orientation and gender identity, including “They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group” by Susan Campbell Bertoletti, “Fences” by August Wilson and “This Book is Gay” by James Dawson.

In an email to district principals and librarians last week, Cannizzo said, “please do not allow any of these books to be checked out while we are in the process of gathering more information. If a book on this list is currently checked out, please do (not) allow it to be checked out again once it’s returned.”

“At this time, the district is not in a position to know if the books contained on this list meet our educational goals or not,” Cannizzo wrote in the email. “Additionally, we need to gain a better understanding of the processes utilized to select books for our school libraries.

The email the district sent Wednesday to parents said not all of the 28 books were in the school libraries. It did not say how many were.

It said the decision was made to allow the challenged books to be checked out again during a meeting of school principals and librarians Wednesday.

The email said families should know “they do have access to the database of books their children have checked out, they can receive notifications when their children check out a book, and that they have online access to the catalog of books available.”

“In addition, parents are encouraged to always contact their building principal or librarian with concerns.”

The district plans to review the annual vetting process of library books, the email said.

Goddard’s decision to pull the books from circulation while they underwent review appeared to violate a district policy approved in 2016 that states: “Challenged materials shall not be removed from use during the review period.”

Books in public schools, particularly those that relate to contentious issues surrounding culture and identity, have come under intense scrutiny across the country in recent months.

The North Kansas City School District recently pulled two books from the shelves — “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel and “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson — after outcry from parent groups. By Wednesday afternoon, a student petition to stop the district from recalling books had garnered 782 signatures. Both books in question were on the list of 29 reviewed by Goddard Public Schools.

Last month, Texas Republican state lawmaker Matt Krause launched an investigation into school districts over the type of books that may “make students feel discomfort.” Krause raised questions about roughly 850 books, most of which pertain to race or sexuality.

Wichita Public Schools spokesperson Susan Arensman said the district would not take books out of circulation based on a complaint before a thorough review was conducted.

“If someone has a concern, they should contact their school,” Arensman said. “Books will remain on the shelves during this review time.

“The person who’s raising the concern has to read the entire book so that they can take everything into context.”

Arensman said complaint forms are reviewed by a committee of teachers and community members that makes recommendations to the school board.

Correction: An early version of this headline and story incorrectly said 29 books were removed and then returned. A parent challenged 29 books; the district said not all of the books were in their school libraries. It did not say how many were.

This story was originally published November 10, 2021 6:18 PM.

Matthew Kelly joined The Eagle in April 2021. He’s covering business and development in the Wichita area. You can contact him at 316-268-6203 and [email protected]