This story originally published online at NC Newsline.

Wake County Public Schools formalized on Tuesday how people can challenge books and instructional materials that they find inappropriate or offensive.

The revised wording to Policy 3210 requires principals to schedule a meeting with the person who is concerned about a book or piece of instructional material; previously, the person only had to submit a complaint in writing. 

The updated policy adds more details to the process, including how a parent can obtain a Request for Reconsideration of Instructional Materials form. 

The timeline to file the paperwork has been extended from 10 days to 20 days, after which point the complaint is considered closed. If the parent files after the deadline, a new process will start.

An outside committee consisting of the media coordinator, teachers familiar with the subject of the challenged book, parents, and a school counselor will read and research the challenged material. They will deliberate their findings at a public meeting. 

Appeals can be made to the school district’s Central Instructional Materials Committee. 

Renee Sekel reads “Worm Loves Worm,” a book being challenged for LGBTQ+ content, during the public comment period of the Wake County school board on July 18. (Photo: Chantal Brown)

If the committee finds that a book or other instructional material violates the rights of the student or the parent, the family will be accommodated. If the material is deemed too vulgar for school, student access will be modified or it will be removed. 

The decision made by the Central Instructional Materials Committee is binding for two years. During this time, no further challenges against the same material in question will be reviewed.

According to the district representatives, only five books went through the formal book challenge process since 2021: Lawn Boy, Out of Darkness, Melissa, Call Me Max, and Dear Martin. They said they have no record of how many complaints were dropped after a discussion with the school principal.

Cecilia Joyce is a librarian in the Wake County school district with over 20 years of experience in education. She said she loves all the joys and challenges in her bustling school libraries.

“Books help shape kids, too,” Joyce said at Tuesday’s school board meeting. “They open up windows to see the world and offer mirrors of the kids  reflected, and doors for them to join new possibilities.

“The book banners are motivated by fear of people they consider ‘other’ in some way. Book banners are looking to tear down our public schools and challenge professional educators,” Joyce said.

Some people at the meeting were concerned that when a student’s parent or guardian wanted to file a formal challenge, the district could “drag out the process until the year is over.” 

Colleen Miller said she is a member of the Pavement Education Project, an initiative formed in response to sexual books and instructional materials that are found in public schools. (The project does not list its staff, volunteers or supporters on its website or Facebook page.)

Miller told the board that the books in question were part of a bigger transition to push nontraditional values. “Classical literature is being purged from our school libraries, and even our public libraries, and being replaced with books that are in writing, ideologies that I find actually, probably for young children to read,” Miller said to the board.

Miller went on: “There will be consequences for this inaction on restricting inappropriate materials to minors- and age-appropriate materials to minors. What should be done? Otherwise, you set yourself up for criminal and civil liability. There will be a day of reckoning.”

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