The Tennessee Conservative [By Kelly M. Jackson] –
Last week, a group of parents in Williamson County filed a petition to have 5 books that sit on middle and high school shelves removed due to their inclusion of what is, according to the law, arguably obscene content.
The reason these parents were forced to resort to such a measure, is because the policy utilized by Williamson County Schools, according to the petition, is inadequate and falls short of what is required in Tennessee law.
The Age Appropriate Materials Act of 2022 requires that materials that are made available in school libraries and in classrooms, be put through a procedure on a regular basis, and particularly when a qualified “stakeholder” raises an issue with any of those materials.
The law states that a board of education must formulate a policy that includes specific criteria in order for it to have the desired effect of the legislation. In this case, that effect ideally would be an audit of sorts of the material in a school library, and possibly classrooms, and locate and remove any material that is determined by a review as inappropriate.
Williamson County Schools does have a district policy it uses to evaluate the materials that are raised by concerned parents, however the petition filed in Williamson County Chancery Court, contends that, procedurally, it deviates from the legal standard put forth in the language of the statute, and therefore violates state law.
The current policy, Policy 4.403 falls short because while it designates what material standards must be met and who makes that evaluation, it fails to establish a procedure librarians and teachers are to follow to conduct the mandatory review the law requires for districts in the state to remain in compliance.
It is the procedure that is key to finding and removing the material that the law is concerned will expose school aged children to obscene materials. Without a procedure there would be no triggering event to remove the material.
At a June 19th board meeting of the Williamson County School Board, the board voted 8-2 to keep 5 books that were of concern to parents. This decision was based on the review of those materials by 2 independent boards chosen by the district. The board members themselves never reviewed the materials themselves, as the law requires.
The books, as demonstrated in the petition, include graphic descriptions of rape, promiscuous sexual behavior, deviant sexual behavior, abortion, contraception, drug use, and drunkenness.
The critics of the complaint level accusations of “book banning” but Representative Gino Bulso (R-D27-Brentwood), who is the attorney of record on the complaint, says that couldn’t be further from the truth.
He said, “No one is even contemplating that a book would be banned in a commercial setting or in a public library, or something of that nature. The only issue here is whether it’s appropriate to make these obscene materials available to children in middle school and high school.”
Eric Welch said in a report at the time of the June meeting, that one parent alone was responsible for the original complaint against 4 of the 5 books in question, and that the complaint against the 5th book was from a person who had no connection to the district at all.
Mr. Welch’s defense in that report never denied that the material exists, and that underage students have access to it, or that he believes it’s appropriate for school children, just that there were only 2 people who had the courage to complain, and bring it to the attention of the board.
It is also worth mentioning, that there is no law or policy that prohibits the school librarians or principals from removing inappropriate material from the school library shelf, any time they see fit to do so.
In case parents are interested in the list of books that are named in the petition, you can find it below:
- “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky
- “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens
- “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson
- “The Field Guide to the North American Teenager” by Ben Philippe
- “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran
- “What Girls Are Made Of” by Elana K. Arnold
- “Leah on the Offbeat” by Becky Albertalli
- “Sold” by Patricia McCormick
- “Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins
- “Lucky” by Marissa Stapley
- “Yolo” by Lauren Myracle
- “Deogratias” by Jean-Philippe Stassen, which the lawsuit says is also available at Brentwood Middle School
The high schools where these books have been found are: Nolensville High School, Brentwood High School, Page High School, Ravenwood High School, and Summit High School.
About the Author: Kelly Jackson is a recent escapee from corporate America, and a California refugee to Tennessee. Christ follower, Wife and Mom of three amazing teenagers. She has a BA in Comm from Point Loma Nazarene University, and has a background in law enforcement and human resources. Since the summer of 2020, she has spent any and all free time in the trenches with local grassroots orgs, including Mom’s for Liberty Williamson County and Tennessee Stands as a core member. Outspoken advocate for parents rights, medical freedom, and individual liberty. Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.