Activists question book availability to Thompson School Board – Loveland Reporter-Herald

Saturday marks the end of National Banned Books Week as talk of books in schools sparks an uproar in districts both nationally and locally.

Speakers have attended numerous board meetings across the region, including the Greeley-Evans School District, the Wellington Board of Trustees and the Thompson School District.

Task Force Freedom, an advocacy group that, according to its founder Cain Young, who calls himself simply Cain, “fights against the tenets of critical race theory, social-emotional learning and child sexual nurturing,” has revealed itself to the public in the comments section of recent both Thompson School District board meetings.

Other presenters at these meetings read graphic scenes from books such as Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye to illustrate that they were unsuitable for school keeping.

“You could say, like libraries say to me all the time, ‘You just want to burn books,'” Cain told the Education Committee during its Sept. 7 meeting. “No, I don’t know. I want to protect children, so we urge you to secure these books in an area that requires parental consent before a child can borrow them.”

He later went so far as to suggest that the board of directors as well as the school librarians should be jailed.

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For its part, the district said it has a process that can be followed by parents who have concerns about certain books.

“Here in the Thompson School District, we are proud of the collaborative relationships we have built with our families and the community as we work together to provide a quality education and prepare our children for life outside of school,” said district spokesman Michael Hausmann in an opinion. “Parents and guardians who have questions or concerns can always contact their school for support. We believe that families are an enduring leader in the educational process and we greatly value their partnership and support.”

Nancy Rumfelt, one of Thompson’s seven board members, said that while she would consider stricter restrictions on the availability of books in school libraries, including a parental approval process, anyone with concerns about the reading material available in libraries should do so Procedures follow, which means contacting the school and making an official complaint.

“The loudest voice isn’t always heard or respected,” she said. “I’m frustrated with everyone because it feels like they’re trying to move that two-ton ball up the hill, but we still have to figure out how to express ourselves in a way that people will listen.”

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She said her criteria for whether a book should be subject to further restrictions is that it be age appropriate and conducive to learning.

Stu Boyd, another school board member who used to serve as a district English teacher and on book appraisal committees, said he has a lot of experience with determining whether certain books are appropriate.

Once a parent or guardian made a complaint, the entire committee should read the book carefully, taking into account the particular complaint.

Boyd’s criteria are broader, and he said if graphic scenes are used purely for shock value, the book is unlikely to have much use if it appears in school libraries or classrooms, but if the scene serves to illustrate the author’s point of view and is readable and understandable for that grade level, it would probably be allowed.

He noted that on one occasion while he was a committee member, a book that appeared in both the middle school library and the high school library was removed from the middle school library but not the high school library because it was considered age appropriate for older students was, but not for younger ones.

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“If I felt that the conversation that was part of the novel or the description was important in driving the author’s intent in writing the book, then I think it’s appropriate,” Boyd said.

He added that during his service on the committee, he would typically ask the complaining parent to read the book as well, sometimes changing his mind when the scene was presented in its full context.

“As a former teacher, citizen and board member, I truly believe that people have every right to object, it’s a public school,” Boyd said. “Hopefully they will understand that there is a process that needs to be followed in order to bring about change and just coming to a board meeting and talking about it and getting angry about it is unlikely to affect change. But being involved in a process that includes lodging a formal grievance means the grievance is taken seriously and considered by a wide range of stakeholders.”

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