Photo Credit: Hamilton County Schools / YouTube
The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
Recently, Hamilton County parents and Moms for Liberty performed a Hamilton County curriculum review that extended into suggested books for students to read that also appear in HCS libraries.
During the Hamilton County School Board meeting on October 21st, the Board along with School Administrators tackled the topic of whether the books found to be offensive should be on school book shelves for students to access.
The first question that begged an answer was how the books were chosen and who makes the final call on their placement on library shelves.
In response to a previous explanation Neelie Parker, Chief Schools Officer at the Hamilton County Department of Education, had made, District 1 School Board Member Rhonda Thurman asked for clarification – “ “You’re saying that in order for these books to arrive in our library, they go through the librarian – so she gets to put whatever book she wants in her library regardless of what they are. And does the principal have a say in that? Does the librarian read this material and think that it’s okay? Who is the last person that says, ‘this book goes on this shelf?’”
Parker expressed that it is difficult to answer those questions with 75 schools in the District.
“It could be the principal. Many of our schools have teams, many texts are brought before the librarian because they are of high, high interest to students. It could be the librarian in some cases. The Board policy really elevates that it should be the community of the school, especially the principal should know. It should be collective. Where we have an opportunity to do better is to make sure our principals, our librarians and our teachers, as they choose books on shelves, that they are working collectively to know,” Parker said.
However, Parker stated that they have discovered that sometimes principals do not know about a book.
“Sometimes our students bring books into school because their parents avidly take them to Barnes & Noble and then they’ll talk to a librarian about that book. So, to answer definitively, at a school-level, decisions can be made by all of those people – the librarian, a teacher, the principal, a leadership team,” Parker said.
Thurman stated that she received an email from one of the school librarians stating that many of the books had won many awards.
“That just shows me if these books got number one, I would hate to see what number two was,” Thurman said.
Thurman challenged any of the administration or librarians in attendance to approach the podium and read excerpts from some of the books in question.
“I want you to get up and read some of the things I have marked…Just get up here to the podium and read some of the quotes from these books…I want the taxpayers to understand exactly what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about a few ‘S-words’ or a few ‘D-words’ or a few ‘H-words,’ I’m talking about ‘MF,’ I’m talking about ‘GD.’ I’m talking about the ‘F-word’ until it’s ad nauseum. Page after page after page… I want everybody in Hamilton County to know, this is what your tax money is paying for,” Thurman said.
Links to the Moms for Liberty Reviews of Two of the Divisive Books
On The Come Up by Angie Thomas – For the detailed uncensored review click HERE.
The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas – For the detailed uncensored review click HERE.
Thurman said, “We’re supposed to be edifying students. We’re supposed to be building them up. We’re supposed to be preparing them for life as adults to get out and be productive citizens in this society… I do not see one thing edifying in any of this.”
“I think the parents trust us to be the gatekeepers, to be sure they’re (the children) are not exposed to this. With our grades being as dismal as they are…we have a lot more to be worried about than filling our student’s minds full of this,” Thurman continued, “It’s very sad that these books are allowed in our classrooms and you took out Huck Finn, you took out Tom Sawyer and To Kill a Mockingbird.”
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District 5 School Board Member Karista Jones defended the books remaining in school libraries stating, “It’s been clearly pointed out that this is not required in curriculum, these are choice books. So, I don’t want to start censoring things…we cannot feel like everybody wants to do what we want to do. I think we have to think about what these things mean. History is history. Life is life…We can’t just teach people what we want them to know.”
Interim Superintendent Nakia Towns also defended the books remaining in the school libraries by stating that, “We have to get kids reading and to get them reading, we have to get them things in their hands they want to read.”
Towns stated that the “classics” only represent one part of the community and that the schools need books that represent “all of our communities.”
“52 percent of our students in Hamilton County Schools as of this year are students of color… They too deserve to see themselves in the books,” Towns said.
Thurman warned, “I looked at some of the enrollment of Hamilton County Schools back in 92-23, combined with the City at that time was 44,000. That’s what our enrollment is now. As much as this town has grown, you would think that our enrollment would be 50,000. People are making other choices for their students, for obvious reasons. We need to do a soul search and find out what that reason is. We can’t keep acting like this kind of stuff doesn’t matter, because it does.”
About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com