“In this recommended policy, parents will make the decision whether they want their students to have access to not just the default level but also maybe the next level,” Chief Academic Officer Linda Macias said at the Aug. 4 board work session. “For example, at middle school, the default level would be the juvenile level, but if parents also wanted their kids to have access to the young adult level, they would have to opt into that. They wouldn’t just have access to that level.”
Part of this policy includes the cataloging of books into the age-level categories of juvenile, young adult and adult. This applies to all books in libraries, classrooms and the digital book database.
At the Aug. 8 meeting, parents, teachers and community members expressed their concerns around the timing of this policy as teachers were initially expected to catalog their classroom libraries by the start of the school year Aug. 22. While cataloging was underway, students would have only been able to access books that were properly cataloged.
CFISD sixth-grader Veronika Skoda addressed the board about her own concerns.
“One of the things I was most excited for was to check out a library book as soon as I could, but when I learned that books won’t be available for a certain amount of time and some are banned, I was really disappointed,” Skoda said. “The way that schools are changing the way that we access books is unfair to students, teachers and librarians. There’s always a lot of work at the beginning of the school year, so the labeling of thousands of books adds more work than there should be. That’s why it would make more sense to wait until later in the year to change the library rules. The fact that only a handful of people who want books banned changes the way that schools read is far from fair. If this district wants to educate kids, then let us read from day one.”
After hearing concerns, board members weighed the idea of pushing back the rollout date for this protocol to Nov. 15. Administration informed the board that pushing the date back to Nov. 15 would allow teachers to use teacher work days to work on cataloging their books when students are not present. Under this new plan, all books would be available for checkout starting the first day of school.
CFISD board President Tom Jackson said protocols for categorizing books were revealed to the district by the Texas Education Agency and the State Board of Education. The district is implementing this protocol to have a standard prepared to report to the state, he said, hopefully avoiding a statewide plan that puts more of a burden on educators.
“I think the board has already indicated that our general preference for all kinds of reasons is that we not delay it to Jan. 1,” Jackson said. “This is a brand-new system to be implemented. We haven’t done any implementation prior to this, even on a test basis, which is what this district normally does, so we have no idea how long this will take until we get into it.”
The new policy also makes it easier for parents to challenge materials found in the libraries by identifying material that fails to meet the policy’s standards or if the age level is incorrect.
On top of this, parents will be able to opt in or out of allowing their child to check out books from the campus library and prohibit them from checking out books by certain authors. Parents can also log in to their child's account to see what books their child has checked out and reach out to the librarian of their campus to communicate what they will allow their children to read.
Concerns remain for trustee Julie Hinaman, who said she worries about the new policy limiting advanced readers in fourth to sixth grades. Students in middle school have access to the juvenile level of materials, and parents can opt in to give them access to the young adult level. There was no mention of providing access to the adult level.
“I just want to make sure that those regulations reflect an opportunity for students to access books that are better matched with their reading level for those kiddos who are in fourth grade, fifth and sixth grade,” Hinaman said.