Dear Parents and Staff,
I am writing to address the ongoing concern expressed by some parents and community members regarding sexually explicit library books. I know some of you have seen information on this topic in news reports, on social media, or from politicians. I want you to hear directly from me where the District stands and how we have been working to address this important issue.
Our Board, leadership team, and librarians have consistently expressed that we are unequivocally committed to ensuring our libraries do not contain sexually inappropriate materials. Since the beginning of the school year, we have identified and removed five titles from high school libraries, one title from middle school libraries, and no titles from elementary school libraries for containing inappropriate sexual content. Four additional titles from high school libraries are currently under review.
We have also received objections to other books that do not contain sexually inappropriate material, none of which have been removed from our libraries. In accordance with state and federal law, the District does not arbitrarily remove books, but instead reviews these books to determine whether they conform to our selection guidelines. No book is ever removed simply because of the viewpoint expressed in the book.
Over the course of this school year, our librarians and central office library staff have been engaged in a comprehensive review of library collection development guidelines and policies. That review identified the root cause of the sexually inappropriate material found in Frisco ISD to be the shifting standards of professional review publications that districts across the country have relied on for decades. Additionally, it became clear that one particular professional review publication had begun positively reviewing titles that contain inappropriate content.
As a result, with input from a variety of District stakeholders including librarians, teachers, parents, and other staff, we have drafted new guidelines and policies, which we expect will be finalized for presentation to the Board at its June 13th meeting. The new guidelines and policies will include the following changes to address the root cause of the problem and ensure inappropriate materials are not selected in the future:
Increasing the number of positive reviews required for a book to be selected.
Removing Kirkus, the reviewer that had positively reviewed almost all of the books the District has removed for sexually inappropriate content this past year, from the list of approved reviewers.
Explicitly prohibiting library materials that contain “obscene” material, as defined by the Texas Penal Code.
Requiring more individualized reviews by librarians for certain types of books that do not have reliable professional reviews or are more likely to contain borderline content.
Additionally, our library staff will implement a weeding schedule for our collections. As part of the weeding process, librarians will re-evaluate titles selected under the old guidelines for compliance with the new guidelines. In April, the Board approved the hiring of additional staff to support this effort and assist librarians in purchasing materials in accordance with our new guidelines as well as ongoing maintenance of library collections.
Finally, the new recommended policy will include an expedited review process for books alleged to contain obscene content. This will ensure that any books found to contain sexually inappropriate material are removed as quickly as possible.
While many social media posts, including those from Representative Jared Patterson, have suggested that the District has been seeking to minimize this issue, I want to be clear that from the time the issue first entered the public discourse, our library staff has taken it very seriously. They have taken immediate action with regard to titles that have been identified to the District, and have been working to identify gaps in our processes and policies that have allowed for inappropriate materials to become available to our students. This work was underway well before Representative Patterson reached out to the District or began posting on social media about this issue.
District staff and Board members met with Representative Patterson in February to discuss his concerns and the role of vendors in book selection. At that meeting, District staff informed him that we had been working to address this issue for several months and had determined that book reviewers, not vendors, are the root cause of this issue. Despite this information, Representative Patterson informed the District that he would demand that districts across the state sign a pledge not to do business with certain vendors. At the meeting, he also reported one title to District staff. That title was reviewed and removed immediately and Representative Patterson was informed of its removal within minutes.
When the District received Representative Patterson’s demand that we sign the pledge to not to do business with certain vendors, the District responded that it is not our practice to sign non-binding pledges drafted by third parties and that it is unfeasible for districts to evaluate the entire sales history of a vendor prior to purchasing from that vendor.
Instead of working collaboratively with the District to find real solutions to this problem, Representative Patterson posted on social media. His first post included excerpts from the book he had reported to the District nearly two months earlier as if he had just learned of the book, without acknowledging the fact that the District immediately reviewed and removed the book when he informed us of it. He has not reported any other book directly to the District.
We are asking our community to please not follow Representative Patterson’s example of reporting books in social media posts and instead share the titles with us directly so we can quickly begin our reconsideration process. We ask this not as a substitute for our own action, but as a supplement to it. With over 1,000,000 titles, it will take more than a year to re-evaluate our collection for compliance with our new guidelines, but the sooner we can remove inappropriate content, the better.
Please know that we are completely committed to finding ways to identify and remove inappropriate content from our libraries and prevent it from making its way onto our shelves in the future. We will share updates on our progress at our Board meetings and on our website. Libraries are an essential part of school and individual learning, and we want to ensure that all of our parents feel comfortable with their students utilizing the incredible resources our libraries have to offer. If you have any concerns or questions regarding your school library, please reach out to our wonderful, highly-trained campus librarians.
Thank you all for your support as we work together to resolve these concerns.
Have a great summer,