A marathon meeting that lasted 5 1/2 hours featured more than 3 1/2 hours of public comment. Trustees voted 4-2 to approve the change. Trustees Micah Young, Joni Shaw Smith, Sandi Walker and Charles Randklev voted in favor with Chris Roof and Ruthie Keyes voting against it. Beverly Dixon abstained from voting.
The board approved two policy changes in July based on options from the Texas Education Agency that dealt not only with library books, but also classroom and instructional materials. The latest change adopts content guidelines for reviewing library books in KISD.
“It is a lot clearer guideline, but it still takes parents, teachers and staff to make sure we are adhering to the spirit of this. It is a guideline after all,” said Young, who joined Smith and Walker as newly elected trustees in May. “I would say this is significantly clearer than the old policy. I think it is a great resource for anyone that will be on a challenge committee to better understand. I’m very excited about this.”
The guidelines list 14 different categories that will be used to judge whether a district library book is age appropriate and adheres to the new policies. Among the categories are profanity, descriptions or illustrations of nude intimate body parts, sexually explicit conduct or sexual abuse, kissing, tobacco use by minors, violence, horror, and drug or alcohol use by adults. The policy requires each category to be rated as minimal, some, common or prevalent.
Randklev, who is the board president, read a prepared statement at the start of the meeting, saying the district is not banning the Bible or Anne Frank's "The Diary of a Young Girl" as some residents have said, although those titles were among the 41 books pulled on the first day of school to be reviewed.
The district noted they were removed due to complaints from community members rather than any decision by a district employee.
“Sexually explicit and obscene books [have] no place in our schools,” Randklev said. “I have no doubt this [policy] will serve as a model for other districts to follow. The new policy boldly adopted by this board addresses the issues that were plaguing our policy.”
Walker said during the meeting that there needed to be more definitions for the terms used. Keyes questioned how to judge common profanity, nothing that what might be common verbiage by some would offend others. A handful of amendments were passed after the initial vote on the policy change to clarify definitions for bullying and nonsexual nudity.
“I think this has gotten too political,” Shaw Smith said. “We want our staff to keep politics out of the classroom. The only politics is to do what is best for the kids in Keller ISD.”