Matt Innis, a Lincoln businessman and 2020 Republican candidate for the US Senate, recently posted an alarming meme/picture on social media regarding school library books about sex and gender identity. Readers have brought it to our attention.
The meme said objectionable books were found in school libraries in Wauneta-Palisade and Omaha.
We asked western Nebraska state school board applicants for feedback, as well as the North Platte School District.
Here is what they said:
Outgoing Nebraska School Board member Robin Stevens said the meme addresses a valid concern.
He asked the superintendent of Wauneta-Palisade. Randy Grier for more information.
Grier told Stevens that in December, a client in the district requested that a book about black Americans be removed from the school library. Additionally, the client requested a list of all the books in the school library. After reviewing the list, the client requested that 38 books be removed.
Grier said they were removed and are currently in a box in his office.
According to Wauneta-Palisade School Board policy, books will remain off library shelves until a review committee reviews them. After the exam, a book may be permanently removed or returned to the school library shelf.
Grier said the review committee process has yet to begin work.
Stevens said Innis’ concern is valid for two reasons.
• Parents and bosses have the right to question the books in their schools.
• In all schools, there should be a policy that outlines the process for questioning and requesting the removal of school books. In the case of the Wauneta-Palisade, the process was followed, Stevens said.
Stevens said the decision whether to put the book(s) back on the shelves or remove them will be made with the approval of the local council and carried out by the superintendent.
He said it’s an example of local control at its best. Neither the Nebraska Department of Education nor the Nebraska State Board of Education was involved in the Wauneta-Palisade case.
Stevens also said we currently live in a time where a politically charged environment allows emotions to run before facts are investigated.
Elizabeth Tegtmeier, Stevens’ challenger, said that as a taxpayer, mother, and parent with a child in public school, she opposes sexually explicit books in the school library.
She is not opposed to factual books on the subject, but books about sexuality that have graphic content or promote an ideology are different from factual books.
She said for example that biology is factual and should be studied.
But when it comes to conversations about gender and sexual identity, parents have the privilege and duty to lead the conversations with their child, she said. It is important for parents to know what kind of topics their child might encounter in the classroom or in the school library.
Tegtmeier said materials in specific school libraries are a local issue and need to be dealt with locally. She did not study the situation in specific school libraries. However, during his campaign, he was shown a book here and there that raises concerns, including a kindergarten book titled little rainbow from the Lincoln Public School library that says “Lesbian, trans, bisexual, queer, gay – celebrate this great community today.”
“Do these terms need to be known from a kindergarten level?” asked Tegtmeier. “No. It forces a parent to have a conversation that their child may not be ready for. I’m not sure most five-year-olds are ready to deal with abstract content related to the identity of their child. gender and human sexuality.
North Platte Public Schools
North Platte Public Schools spokeswoman Tina Smith said she checked North Platte school libraries in April and found three copies of two books on the list in the high school library. They have been removed for further examination.
Smith said any parent, current student or patron of the affected school district can request a review of library materials.
The school board’s curriculum subcommittee oversees books and materials in classrooms.
When it comes to selecting library books, school board policy states that to ensure materials are appropriate for students and meet legal requirements, the process reviews:
• Material awards, such as appearance on bestseller lists, awards won, and recommendations from professional library journals and organizations focused on K-12 school library materials.
• If any content of the material represents a perspective that may not be universal, such as a political, religious or social perspective for which there are disagreements or differences of opinion.
At North Platte, the superintendent establishes a library materials review committee as needed, consisting of an administrator, a teacher, and a librarian or media specialist.
The committee will review the materials before they are placed in the libraries.
The policy states that a parent or concerned patron living in the school district may request a review of a specific book, magazine, etc., or portion of a library item. The parent or client should first raise their concerns with the building manager.
If the parent or client is not satisfied after the informal review and discussion with the administrator, they may request a review in writing. They fill out a request for review form for the superintendent.
The superintendent may consult with the school librarian, staff and legal counsel and will respond in writing. The superintendent’s decision will be final, according to the policy.
Top picture: Books challenged by Lincoln businessman Matt Innis on social media.
(This report was first published in the Newsletters October 19 print edition. It is specified.)
© 2022 The North Platte Bulletin. All rights reserved.