13 Mar

I’ve attended all the board and policy committee discussions so far around Policy 606.5, so I was rather shocked to hear at the last board meeting that the board thinks the policy is ready for approval next week.  This board has not done its due diligence, not even close, and at every turn, continues to make choices to silence the community and marginalize parents. 

To that point, I’ve done some of the homework for you and compared the BPS draft policy both to the official model MBSA policy, and to the library policies from surrounding districts.  Here’s what I found:

The draft policy lacks any timelines to govern the reconsideration process.  Other districts including Carver, Anoka-Hennepin, Prior Lake, Osseo and Edina have clear timelines for one or more milestones.  Without timeline agreements, the book review committees can stretch out the process for months or years on end, while a potentially harmful book remains available, which is exactly what is happening with the current book review process under Policy 606.1. 

I also learned that a majority of school districts do allow residents to request reconsideration – including Carver, Anoka-Hennepin, Osseo, Edina and Brooklyn Park.   Why is this district so against community engagement?

For book donations, many districts require that books simply meet the selection criteria, without other staff approvals as Bloomington dictates.  In Edina, the approval of a media center specialist is required but they smartly include oversight by a building administrator or the director of technology services to prevent discrimination.

I’m also concerned since the policy abandons any pretext for maintaining neutrality on controversial issues.   Intellectual freedom will be threatened if there is concentrated authority to both select and promote certain viewpoints in school libraries. 

And although the policy states that materials shall be appropriate to ages, maturity level, social development, etc., it doesn’t require materials to be classified as such.  Nearly all content aimed at young children and young adults has some level of ratings and content descriptors – warning about drug use, sexual situations, smoking, violence, vulgarity and so on. 

Ostensibly, the board retains final say on library selections, but the draft policy ensures impotent oversight and governance. Case in point, the amorphous requirement to provide an annual report to the board.  To date, the board has not identified a single metric or goal to report on, a staple of competent governance practices, and insist on being intentionally vague to avoid a managerial role.  Except when parents requested a list of new and retired titles, then the board intruded to dictate that it was too cumbersome for the “trusted experts” to track the supposed 8,000 annual title changes. Yet they are on record suggesting the solution is for parents to do a year-over-year comparative analysis on all 165,000 titles.  

However, if you refer to the handouts I provided, the Destiny library catalog has standard reporting and disposition capabilities which should enable the media center to produce the requested reports in a matter of minutes, provided the trusted experts are following typical material management practices.

So, despite significant flaws and numerous unanswered concerns, the board abruptly shut down debate at the most recent board meeting.  It’s time for district leaders and the board to roll-up their sleeves and start working with the community and parents to find common ground, and deliver a fair policy with proper governance.  

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