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8 books challenged in Catawba County have been reviewed; most remain in libraries

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Protestors displayed signs against banning books at Monday’s Catawba County Schools Board of Education meeting.

Catawba County Schools has reviewed eight of the 24 books a parent asked the school system to ban. None of the books have been banned from school libraries, but three will be moved out of middle school libraries.

In March, Michelle Teague asked the district to remove 24 books from school libraries. She submitted 24 formal challenges for the books to be reviewed for inappropriate content. The school district put together committees to read each book to determine if the book is age appropriate, the extent to which the book supports the curriculum, weigh the merits of the book and decide if the book should be removed.

None of the books Teague asked to be reviewed are required reading in classes, Catawba County Schools Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction DeAnna Finger said at Monday’s board of education meeting. Many of the books have not been checked out of the library for years, she said.

As of Monday, the high school committee has reviewed four books and the middle school committee has reviewed four books. The committees are made up of teachers, students, community members and media coordinators. The committees have paused book review and will resume when school begins again in the fall, Finger said.

The high school committee has read and reviewed “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison and “Me, Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews. The committee found that all four books should be allowed to stay in school libraries, Finger said.

The middle school committee has read and reviewed “Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell, “Monday’s Not Coming” by Tiffany D. Jackson, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky and “Looking for Alaska” by John Green. The committee decided that all of the books except “Eleanor and Park” should be removed from middle school libraries. Those books will be reviewed by the high school committee to decide if they should stay in high school libraries.

None of the decisions have been appealed by Teague, Catawba County Schools Marketing and Communications Director Kim Jordan said.

The books removed from middle school libraries could still be requested by middle school students with parental permission, Finger said at Monday’s meeting.

Parents can tell a school if they don’t want their child to be allowed to check out specific books. With the recent interest in book challenges, Catawba County Schools is considering ways to better inform parents how to proceed if there are books parents don’t want their children to check out, Catawba County Schools board attorney Crystal Davis said.

“That’s one of the things we’re going to roll out this school year,” Davis said. “We want to make sure we’re getting it out there.”

The challenges have also prompted the school system to reconsider its policy around challenges. Davis said staff plans to add a policy that people who challenge a book must have read the entire book themselves. Teague said she has not read the books she challenged.

Several people spoke about the book challenges at Monday’s meeting.

Carl Beardsworth, who has spoken out before, asked the board to consider the motivation behind the requests. He said the books cannot be removed for partisan, nationalism, religious or political reasons.

“I got the privilege last month of listening to the opposition speaking in support of banning some of these books,” he said. “I found it was an argument based on a moral view and found it very bigoted to the trans and nonbinary community. I feel it was an argument that squarely falls in the category of politics and religion.”

Alyx Ashby also spoke against banning the books.

“Asking to have these books banned is not about parent choice,” Ashby said. “Banning books is about harming and erasing people in marginalized communities who already face discrimination and other challenges.”

Ashby said books about different people can lead to important conversations with children.

“Even if you don’t understand or agree with something you can try to find a respectful perspective and response to the questions,” Ashby said.

A group of people came to the meeting with protest signs against banning books. They did not speak during the public comment portion of the meeting.

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