daily southtown

school board should take responsibility for book choice

september 25, 2007

by dan kleinman

i thank jerry mulvihill, school district 126 school board president, for his article in the daily southtown sept. 7.  he clearly spells out what he believes is the best role for the school board:

"district 126 accepts the responsibility of providing parents with timely, accurate information for reading titles in the effort to allow parents to make the best possible choices for their children.  ...  the main principle of our district's policy is that parents have the capacity to decide against having their child reading any book they feel is not appropriate.  how more 'local' can control be than parents having the power to make decisions in the interest of their own child's education?"

he tells us this is "local control."  american library association policy is, "only parents and legal guardians have the right and responsibility to restrict their children's—and only their own children's—access."  the u.s. supreme court said in 2003, "the interest in protecting young library users from material inappropriate for minors is legitimate, and even compelling, as all members of the court appear to agree."

it may be ok for the school board to present a reading list to parents to decide on the appropriateness of the titles for their children, but isn't it the responsibility of the school board to present to parents a list of appropriate titles in the first place?

the "fat kid rules the world" incident shows the error of relying on outside sources, such as the ala and its awards, to recommend books to the district's children.  such sources have little regard for local interests or u.s. supreme court decisions.  the persuasive ala award (given to "fat kid rules the world)," by the way, is why ala influence was significant despite claims to the contrary.

the school board persists in passing its responsibility for keeping children from inappropriate material to the parents.  does this not represent a serious problem for the district 126 community?  are people powerless to stop this?

dan kleinman is a resident of chatham, n.j., and operates the web site www.safelibraries.org.

[bonus paragraph editorially removed from the article as published:]

"don't join the book burners.  don't think you are going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed.  don't be afraid to go in your library and read every book, as long as that document does not offend our own ideas of decency.  that should be the only censorship."  that is from president dwight eisenhower.  a lack of "decency" is essentially why the school board apologized.
[source url — this url = http://www.safelibraries.org/126.htm]
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