13 Mar

My name is John Peters. 

I’m a Bloomington resident, and my wife and I currently have two daughters who attend Bloomington Public Schools.

In August of last year, I and a number of other concerned Bloomington citizens/parents brought to the board’s attention that there are a number of books in the school libraries that contain sexually explicit and age-inappropriate material. We followed policy 606.1 in bringing forth challenges to that reading material. The review process was unnecessarily lengthy, district staff was not particularly communicative, and ultimately none of the challenges were successful.

Despite this, the board is now considering a new policy, 606.5. This policy is not well-thought out, has many flaws, and should not be passed in its current form.

According to the section II.B., “While recommendations by administrators, faculty members, students, parents or caregivers, and other community members may be considered, the final responsibility for selection of library materials shall rest with the library media specialist.” This gives the library media specialist, an unelected individual, immense power.

According to section III.C., “The executive director of technology & information services shall be responsible for keeping the school board informed of progress on review and selection of each building’s library materials.”

However, there is no process outlined in the policy of how the school board is to be informed regarding the age-appropriateness of library materials, or what new books are coming into the library. This produces a significant lack of accountability to both the school board and citizens of Bloomington.

If the paid, professional staff of the media centers are not going to adequately track or document new materials coming into the libraries, then it is ridiculous to expect that parents will be able to do it in their off time.

Section V of the policy also has significant problems. For example:

· “The District will acknowledge receipt of a Formal Request for Reconsideration within 30 school contract days.” Why does it take 30 contract days to simply acknowledge the receipt of a 1-2 page form?

· Only one book challenge will be addressed at a time· A citizen is only allowed one book challenge per year

· The “Library Materials Review Committee” is heavily weighted with district staff, as opposed to members of the community

· There is no specific timeline for the review process

· If a book challenge in unsuccessful, that book cannot be challenged again for 3 years

All of these components of the policy are obviously designed to disempower concerned parents and citizens who bring these challenges, and to discourage them from doing so.

In respect to the proposed revised version of the “Formal Request for Reconsideration of Library Collection Material”, sections 4-6 are largely irrelevant and unnecessarily cumbersome. If I, as a concerned parent or citizen, have a legitimate objection to certain reading materials in the library, outlining my specific concerns with such materials should be sufficient. For example, asking me to review other opinions of the challenged material is both insulting and burdensome.

In conclusion, policy 606.5 has major flaws and should not be passed. If you are going to replace policy 606.1, I urge you to do so with a policy that treats the parents and community members of Bloomington with the respect and consideration that we deserve. 

Thank you

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