Tensions rise over Cabarrus County textbooks and course materials

CABARRUS COUNTY, NC (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Tensions continued to rise in Cabarrus County over textbooks and course materials.

On Friday, the Cabarrus County schools attorney released a policy document that would have given board members the power to vote on banning certain materials at school.

Council members were to vote on the policy at their Monday meeting.

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But at Monday’s meeting, the attorney presented an entirely different plan that was not read by council members or the public ahead of the meeting. The new policy amendment would give board members the power to challenge course material, but not vote on its fate. All disputed course materials would be submitted to a committee made up of teachers, parents and other school officials.

“The public is supposed to see what’s being discussed and what’s going to be voted on,” said Parent and School Board candidate Pam Escobar, citing a lack of transparency on the board.

In August, the board passed a policy that would formalize how parents and other community members could challenge course materials.

They later realized that this policy left gaps that needed to be corrected. For example, it didn’t allow people to submit anonymous challenges, challenge books outside of their school, or allow school board members to complete challenges themselves. The new policy introduced on Monday is meant to address those concerns.

“We know we have a problem with the process that supports the actual policy that’s going to control how the books are reviewed,” council chair Holly Grimsley said.

At the district’s Sept. 12 business meeting, Vice President Laura Blackwell read aloud from the disputed book “Looking for Alaska.”

According to Grimsley, this challenge came from a parent whose child does not attend the school where this book is held. According to the policy, as it stands, this means that this challenge is not permitted. Blackwell hoped that by reading the passage, community members would show the importance of making the challenge process more accessible.

The passage describes a young girl providing a sexual act for the first time.

John Green, the author of “Looking for Alaska,” addressed the Cabarrus County Schools discussion via Twitter. He said the passage read by Blackwell could not be taken out of context and actually discouraged young people from engaging in unemotional sex.

“Looking for Alaska has been in print for 17 years and has been challenged countless times, but I’ve never seen anything like the concerted effort in 2022 to remove it and so many other books from libraries and schools across the country,” he wrote. . “We train and employ librarians and teachers to find the right books for the right readers and to build collections and programs that will help students learn. Preventing these people from doing their jobs makes the world worse – for students and for society.

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Earlier in the month, 132 Cabarrus County residents signed a letter sent to the board expressing concern about the new review policy and its transparency regarding the books being reviewed.

“To continue to micromanage our teachers and their ability to teach will do nothing but continue to kick them out of our system,” said mother Courtney Steinberg.

Ultimately, the board decided to send the amended policy back to the committees for review before a final vote.

Denise W. Whigham