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Kansas district orders 29 books removed from circulation

Posted at 3:06 PM, Nov 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-10 16:06:49-05

GODDARD, Kan. — A Kansas school district has removed more than two dozen books from its library shelves to review them after other school systems challenged the material.

KMUW-FM reports that Julie Cannizzo, assistant superintendent for academic affairs in Goddard, said Tuesday that one parent objected to language he found offensive in "The Hate U Give," a novel about the aftermath of a police officer killing a Black teenager. The parent then submitted a list of books he questioned, and district officials agreed to halt checkouts and complete a review.

"We're not banning these books or anything like that as a district," she said. "It was just brought to our attention that that list of books may have content that's unsuitable for children."

The books that have been removed from circulation in the Goddard school district also include "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood; "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison; "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky; "Fences," a play by August Wilson that won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1987; and "They Called Themselves the K.K.K.," a historical look at how the white supremacist group took root in America.

Cannizzo said in an email to principals and librarians last week that the district is assembling a committee to "rate the content of the books on the list" and to review the selection process. She did not say how long the process is expected to take.

Cannizzo said she plans to meet with school librarians this week. She wouldn't say when or if the books would return to circulation.

"We haven't even evaluated these books," she said. "I couldn't even tell you what these books have in them or why someone may find them offensive or not."

The approach appears to be in conflict with a district policy for challenging textbooks, library books or instructional materials. Approved in 2016, the policy states: "Challenged materials shall not be removed from use during the review period."

Jaime Prothro, Wichita's director of libraries, said there's an increase in challenges to library purchases nationwide. Prothro said she can't speak specifically to issues at play in Goddard or other districts. But she worries that current debates over books could limit access to diverse stories and experiences.

"That one family may choose not to read something does not determine whether or not it's appropriate for another family," she said.