Concerns surround Berkeley Co. Schools book review committees

Ten committees made up of librarians, staff and parents will begin reviewing 93 books that have been challenged after one parent formally complained.
Published: Oct. 2, 2023 at 10:55 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 2, 2023 at 11:24 PM EDT
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MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (WCSC) - Members of the Berkeley County School Board heard from the district’s legal counsel Monday night regarding the ongoing debate of whether certain books will be allowed in the district.

Starting Tuesday, ten committees made up of librarians, staff and parents will begin reviewing 93 books that have been challenged after one parent formally complained to the district.

One of the main concerns parents expressed about the upcoming meetings is whether librarians will have enough time to read the books assigned to them to review.

The committees were created because it would take longer than 30 days for the board to read 93 books.

“The truth is that this policy is not designed to handle 90-plus book challenges. As I think all reasonable people will concede, having a committee review approximately 90 books within 30 days is impossible,” Berkeley County School District Legal Counsel Brandon Gaskins says.

But some committee members say being asked to read ten books with only a few weeks’ notice, outside of work and without being paid for it is unreasonable.

“I got a committee member that got the books on September 15. There’s no way she could read eight hours a day to get it done in 15 days, there’s no way,” former Berkeley County educator Cindy Fisk says.

The district plans to livestream the meetings for transparency and to comply with the state’s open record laws. Some people say they are concerned for the safety and privacy of the district employees and parents who will be sharing their opinions publicly if the meetings are livestreamed.

“Not only do they not have the time allotted to read thousands of pages in the amount of time that they’re given, but I’m also hearing from friends who are serving on these committees as professionals, and how they are concerned about how the policy is being interpreted and how the process is being handled,” Berkeley County parent and teacher Mahwish McIntosh says.

Gaskins says creating the committees was appropriate for all schools and parents to be represented.

“We have tried to comply with the policy and maintain a fair and open process,” he adds. “I understand that not everyone is enamored with the policy, and they have that right.”

The meeting ended with no action taken by the school board to change the way these book review committees are organized.

The first committee meeting begins Tuesday. To access more information on the meetings and how to watch them, visit Berkeley County School District’s website.