AUBURN — The Auburn Enlarged City School District Board of Education approved a policy amendment that would give parents more control over what books their children can check out of the library, but the method of disseminating the form for that has been changed.
At a meeting Tuesday night, the board approved amendments to the district’s policies called “Objection to Instructional Materials” and “Selection of Library and Audiovisual Materials.” The changes include creating a form for parents who do not want their child to check out certain books, with parents listing the titles they do not want their student to have access to.
Auburn Superintendent Jeff Pirozzolo previously said the forms would be put in all students’ packets for the beginning of the school year and would be available online as well.
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However, during a discussion on the policy amendments, board president Ian Phillips proposed an amendment that would add the sentence “The form will be available upon request.” This prompted a discussion on how the form would be made available to parents. Pirozzolo said the district’s policy committee came up with the methods of sending the forms out to families in packets and putting it on the district’s website. He asked Phillips if his addition would mean that the forms would not be sent home.
“My issue with that, though, is my secretaries already have it all done, they’re already included in every packet that’s going out in two days. I just don’t want to see our policy violate what we’ve already got set up because that’s the work we came up with,” Pirozzolo said.
He also said that he believed some of the reasons why the committee came up with those original methods were due to “No. 1, transparency, and No. 2, worried about people who didn’t have computers, who didn’t have access to it.” Pirozzolo added that removing all of those forms would require a lot of work. The idea of having the form be available at the offices of every district building upon request came up. A motion for the amendment of adding that one sentence to the proposed policy change was passed by the board, along with the policy amendments themselves. After those votes, board member Dr. Eli Hernandez asked if the approximately 4,000 forms that were going to be placed in the packets home were now going to be removed, to which Pirozzolo said yes.
After the meeting, Phillips talked about the approved addition to the policy change that meant the form will be available upon request.
“I think the change is, we don’t want to presume a parent doesn’t want their child to take a book. If they indicate that they would like to use that form, then they will ask for it, but we don’t t want to presume that every parent in the entire district wants to make an objection to some book,” Phillips said. “I don’t feel that’s the case, there hasn’t been any indication of that, that it’s widespread, so it’s a change that is (on an) as-needed basis, if a parent or guardian feels like it’s necessary, then they will be able to request (the form.)”
Speaking to The Citizen Wednesday, Pirozzolo said the forms are already available at all of the district building offices, as the forms taken out of the packets will be at the building offices. Pirozzolo said it is currently estimated that the form will be up on the district’s website in about a week, adding that all of the district’s forms are on the “Forms & Policies” section on the district’s website.
Pirozzolo said his concern about not sending the forms in students’ packets was related to families who don’t have internet access at home and so all families would have equal access to the document. Referring to the district’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and the district talking about “equity and inclusion,” he said he personally thought it would have been a good idea to put the forms in the packets sent home.
“I just thought it was easier to put it easier to put it in the opening day packets,” he said.
That said, Pirozzolo said that since making the form available upon request was a part of the policy, “we’re going to follow the board’s policy.”
The library book policy amendments came up due to some earlier community complaints regarding the book “All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto” by journalist and activist George M. Johnson. The book, which centered on Johnson’s experiences as a Black queer person, contains material that detractors argued should not be available in the Auburn High School’s library.
After the complaints were made, a process started where a special committee needed to review the book and give a recommendation to the school board, which would ultimately decide if the book would stay at the library or not. That 10-person committee created a recommendation in February saying the board should look at the district’s policy on selecting library materials and make any changes the board feels are necessary, but it did not say the book should be removed.
At a meeting in March, the Auburn school board approved the review committee’s recommendation to look at policy changes and voted to keep the book at the school library.
Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.