State Dept. of Ed. policy looks to provide uniformity on ‘age appropriate’ books

Published: Nov. 9, 2023 at 8:51 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2023 at 4:12 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A proposed policy from the South Carolina Board of Education would establish a uniform policy for determining if a book is appropriate for students.

The policy, set for first reading at Tuesday’s board meeting, would establish consistent definitions to determine if material available to students in school libraries and media centers is “age and developmentally appropriate” and “educationally suitable.”

The American Civil Liberties Union says the policy would override the judgments of local librarians and teachers and is an attempt to pull decision making away from local school boards.

“Local educators are trained in ensuring students have access to age-appropriate materials, and they already have processes in place to respond to concerns from parents,” ACLU Executive Director Jace Woodrum said. “This policy is a blatant attempt to seize power from local leaders. And we know why book banning organizations and their political allies like Superintendent Weaver would love a policy like this: Because when local school boards follow their own policies and listen to public input, the vast majority of challenged books are returned to classrooms.”

The policy would add a blanket ban on books with “descriptions or visual depictions of ‘sexual conduct’ or include descriptions or visual depictions that “could not be portrayed or read aloud on broadcast television or radio during daytime hours.”

“This policy would set arbitrary and narrow standards for age-appropriateness, effectively ending sex education,” Woodrum said. “In a time when students have unfettered access to so much information on their phones, we shouldn’t be depriving them of materials chosen by trained educators to help them understand themselves and others. Under this policy, everything from the Bible to The Kite Runner to Brave New World could be considered inappropriate and banned.”

The policy would require school districts to have an up-to-date list of books available prominently displayed on their websites and allow for residents inside the school district or parents and guardians to file complaints requesting the removal of materials they feel are inappropriate.

The policy would require the district to respond within 60 days to complaints.

An appeal can then be made to the state board for those who aren’t satisfied with the decision made at the local level. The complainant would have 30 days from the local board meeting to ask for an appeal.

The state board would also have the final say on determining if local district officials or boards were compliant with requirements setting up disciplinarian actions from a written warning up to a hearing in front of the state board.

The policy goes for a first reading in front of the state education board Wednesday. Details on the meeting and other upcoming meetings can be found here.