Nampa schools could have a new process for removing books from libraries by the end of the summer.
The Nampa School District’s Board of Trustees directed Interim Superintendent Greg Russell to develop a district process for removing books from schools during a special work session Monday night. Trustees would like to approve a new policy by the start of the 2022-23 school year.
The trustees spent more than an hour on Monday night discussing their controversial May 9 decision to remove 22 “challenged books” from libraries in the district, which some board members said was the result of an unclear process.
School Board Chair Jeff Kirkman said he voted in favor of removing the books in part because the district’s process for removing books “was all over the place.”
Russell said there isn’t a specific written policy for removing books in the district, and that the current process was loosely modeled after the curriculum selection process.
Trustee Marco Valle, who also voted to remove the books, said the controversial decision — which he said garnered nationwide reaction — was necessary to develop a better policy.
“A shock to the system is sometimes needed to make changes the right way,” Valle said.
Board Vice Chair Tracey Pearson said parents had been complaining about the nearly two dozen books for more than a year, and that the board had to act.
The board’s big questions of the night revolved around whether certain titles should be kept in schools and whether parents can prevent their children from reading content they deem inappropriate.
District librarians said that up until the May 9 vote, they were in the process of answering those questions with a book review committee.
Ann Christensen, the library assistant at Skyview High School, met with parents and staff for months, where they read the challenged books and shared their opinions.
“A lot of time went into reading these books, analyzing them, seeing if they were appropriate,” Christensen said. “You voted and stopped our process… it felt like we wasted our time.”
Nampa High librarian Nancy Finney said that she read most of the now-removed books. The librarian admitted she was “shocked” by some of the content in the book “Looking For Alaska” but said she loved the book by the time she finished it.
“Books are like a jigsaw puzzle,” she said. “If you take one piece out and look at it, it may seem really offensive, but when you put all those pieces together, you get the whole, and you find out what this all means.”
At the heart of the debate is how parents can have a say in what books their children read. As part of their work session, the board floated a number of ideas, including:
- Naming a districtwide committee made up of parents, teachers, librarians and other interested parties.
- Creating a nomination process for removing challenged books, where the nominating party would be required to read the book in question and present a report.
- Developing criteria by which a book would be approved or denied based on content.
- Making every school library’s inventory available for parents to browse.
- Allowing parents to decide if their child can opt out of reading certain books.
- Creating a system that would alert a parent every time a student checked a book out of the library.
Nampa’s board clerk Krissy LaMont said the board will hold another work session later this summer to review the administration’s progress on the new process for reviewing books.