The Tennessee Conservative [By Adelia Kirchner] –
Last week the Wilson County School Board voted to keep two controversial books available to high school students in Wilson County, adding them to a “mature reading list” instead of removing them from school libraries.
An ad hoc citizen’s group in Wilson County, We The People, has been working to remove books containing borderline pornographic material from Wilson County public school libraries.
However, the group is only allowed to “contest” two publications per month which makes the process quite slow.
Both works have been given a “Not for Minors” rating on booklooks.org for containing obscene/explicit sexual activities and sexual nudity, mild and frequent/excessive profanity, violence, graphic violence, along with alcohol and drug use.
We The People contested these two books during a September 7th school board meeting, and board members voted 4-3 to keep the works in school libraries and simply classify the titles as “mature reading.”
According to our source, the mature reading list that these books were put on is something that parents must purposefully “opt-in” for at the beginning of their child’s school year.
“Given how busy most parents are, and given the lack of communication most teenagers prefer,” our source stated, “I can see a lot of folks just checking off boxes in a hurry and not investigating exactly what is on the ‘mature reading list.’”
As far as the citizen’s group has been able to find out, there does not seem to be specific age criteria for who can access books on this “mature reading list.”
This presents the possibility that even a 14-year-old high school freshman could be considered “mature” enough to check these materials out from their school library.
Earlier this year, Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet-District 57) called out similar material available in Wilson County schools and encouraged the school board to remove it.
One Wilson County resident, Ken Hood, requested more information on the situation and County School Board Member Jamie Farough responded via email, stating that “Governor Lee and the 111th General Assembly increased funding for Tennessee R.E.A.D.S. in 2020.”
This would mean that state lawmakers and the governor increased funding for an organization that not only provides students with the publications Rep. Lynn was concerned about, but also offers other questionable books that the Wilson County School Board has removed or considered removing in the past.
“Our school board offered a mature reading list as a compromise,” Farough allegedly wrote, “(to not violate a Supreme Court decision but also to offer parents the choice to say no if they don’t want their child reading it).”
The school board member went on to note that despite this measure, Tennessee R.E.A.D.S. allows students to access mature content without restriction, via the organization’s catalog, which offers electronic copies of books as well as audiobooks.
Even if those same publications are removed from physical school libraries, students may access them on their phones.
“Periodically I email our school board with some concerns. […] I am convinced they are good people and want to do the right thing,” wrote Hood. “They are faced with issues that were not even a concern a decade ago.”
About the Author: Adelia Kirchner is a Tennessee resident and reporter for the Tennessee Conservative. Currently the host of Subtle Rampage Podcast, she has also worked for the South Dakota State Legislature and interned for Senator Bill Hagerty’s Office in Nashville, Tennessee. You can reach Adelia at email@example.com.