Following are the recommendations of Limiting What Students Shall Read: Books and Other Learning Materials in Our Public Schools, How They are Selected and How They Are Removed. The report is based on a survey of school officials conducted by the the Association of American Publishers, the American Library Association, and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Before challenges arise, school districts should:
1. Establish, in writing, a materials selection policy. The policy statement should specify the local criteria and procedures for selecting curricular and library materials. School personnel, including administrators at all levels, should strictly adhere to the established policy and procedures in the selection of all materials.
2. Establish, in writing, a clearly defined method for dealing with complaints. Formal procedures for the review of challenged materials should be an integral part of the selection policy statement. Survey data strongly suggest that review procedures include the following provisions:
- That a request-for-review form be used to identify, in writing, the complainant's specific concerns and objections, for evaluation during the review process;
- That a broad-based committee including parents and other community residents, as well as school personnel, be established to review challenged materials; and
- That no restrictions be placed on the use of challenged materials until the entire review process has been completed.
3. Establish continuing communication with the public served by the schools. School personnel should keep the local community informed, on a regular basis, about educational objectives, curricula, and classroom and library programs, and should be accessible to all concerned local residents to hear their views. It is especially important that the community be informed about the policies and procedures for selecting and reviewing books and other instructional and library materials, since these materials form the basis for so much of the school's educational program.
If a challenge arises, school districts should:
1. Attempt to resolve the challenge informally. When the complaint is first received, appropriate personnel should meet informally with the complainant to hear the specific objections being raised and to explain how and why the challenged material was selected. If, at the end of this informal discussion, the complainant still wishes to challenge the material in question, the request-for-review form should be provided.
2. Take no action to review challenged materials until a written request for review is filed. When the formal request has been filed, established review procedures should be implemented immediately. At this time, the school board or other governing body should be fully informed of the details of the complaint. If there is no standing review committee, the necessary committees should now be established.
3. Strictly adhere to established procedures throughout the review process. All school personnel should be reminded that no restrictions are to be placed on the use of the challenged materials until the entire review process has been completed.
4. Inform the public generally. Any review of challenged materials should be conducted openly, and the community the district serves should be kept informed through the media and/or local organizational channels, such as the parents' association or school newsletters.
5. Seek support. Many local and national groups can offer advice and support. It is best to alert such groups when a complaint is first received. They can often help schools resolve challenges equitably; at the very least, they can provide moral support. Publishers in particular, through the Association of American Publishers, may be able to provide assistance in resolving challenges.
Vol. 01, Issue 01, Page 20