High School Library Book Under Review

High School Library Book Under Review
The parent of a Stephen Decatur High School student has asked the school system to remove the book "All Boys Aren't Blue" from the school library. File photo

SNOW HILL– The school system launched a formal review of a controversial book after requests by community members.

Worcester County Public Schools received two review requests, one from a Stephen Decatur High School parent and another from a community member, regarding the book “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson. Last month, citizens shared concerns about sexually explicit passages in the book at a school board meeting.

“This idea of challenging books, this isn’t a local thing,” said Jennifer Sills, the school system’s coordinator of science and library media. “This is happening nationwide. If anyone’s following the news you’ll see these same titles are being brought up nationally.”

When a member of the public shared an audio recording of several explicit passages from “All Boys Aren’t Blue” at last month’s Worcester County Board of Education meeting, Sills advised officials no formal complaints had been filed. She acknowledged that the book, which is described on its cover as the author’s “memories of growing up Black and queer in America,” was available for check-out in media centers at the local high schools. She also outlined the school system’s library and review policies.

In the wake of that meeting, two review requests regarding “All Boys Aren’t Blue” have been received. Sills said a parent submitted a review request at Stephen Decatur High School last Monday and a community member submitted one to the central office last Thursday.

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Typically, if a parent has a concern regarding a library book or text book or other materials, they’re advised to speak to the school principal. If that conversation doesn’t resolve the issue, a formal review request can be filed. Now that that’s occurred, at Decatur Sills said a committee would review the book and make a recommendation. Committee members will look at the value of the book and the awards and reviews its received alongside the parent’s concerns.

Because it’s unusual for the school system to receive a review request from someone who doesn’t have a child in school, Sills said the complaint submitted last Thursday was submitted directly to her. She’ll see what the Decatur committee reports regarding the book and develop her own recommendations as well.

“By the end of next week we’ll have recommendations as far as retaining or removing the item,” she said.

If the book stays in schools and those who submitted the review requests aren’t satisfied, they can go to the superintendent. If they don’t agree with whatever action he takes the issue would go on to the school board.

Sills said that in her 20 years with Worcester County Public Schools, concerns like this one have always been resolved at the school level.

“It will be interesting to see where this goes,” she said.

Sills said she offered to provide both individuals who submitted review forms with copies of the book so they could read it but they declined. She noted that if the book was not removed from school shelves, as the individuals have asked, parents could still restrict their own children’s ability to check it out.

“A parent always has the option to have that limited for their child,” she said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.