Berkeley County School Committee recommends guidelines on instructional material

The Berkeley Co. School District held a committee meeting Monday night to evaluate guidelines for learning materials in the district.
Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 11:02 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 20, 2023 at 11:24 PM EST
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BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - The Berkeley County School District held a committee meeting Monday night to evaluate appropriate guidelines for materials of sexual and pornographic content in the district.

The committee voted and created recommended guidelines to present to the school board, with the board allowed to accept or deny any of the recommendations.

The two policies the committee is recommending are new guidelines to IFAA, textbook selection and adoption, and IFBDAA, selection of materials for school library media centers.

Both of these policies were last updated in 2011, which is part of the reason why the committee says changes need to be made.

The IFAA policy recommendations the committee approved for the board include:

Parents should have the ability to have access to a textbook all year long for each of their children for any class, course, etc.

“If we can provide Chromebooks for all of our students, we can provide textbooks to the parents,” BCSD Evaluation Committee Member, Lisa Kerns, says.

Another guideline is that the district should provide transparency in the content within each textbook and communicate that with parents on any textbook that was not on the state-approved list.

And finally include supplemental materials as well as classroom libraries and have them follow the same approval policy as textbooks.

“If there are things that are questionable or controversial, we need to tell parents, ‘there are things in here that you might not like,’” Berkeley County Evaluation Committee Member, Angelina Davenport says.

As for the policy recommendations for library media centers, which include library books, the committee approved:

Adding the S.C. State Code 16-15-305, which is defined as content that does not violate Title 16 (Crimes & Offenses), Chapter 15 (Offenses Against Morality & Decency), Article 3 (Obscenity, Material Harmful to Minors, Child Exploitation, and Child Prostitution) of the SC Code of Law.

“Let’s let the school librarians under their policy be responsible for the school library,” Evaluation Committee member Chris Hanley says.

The last proposed guideline is if an educator does not follow the policy, there would be steps to address it and there could be legal ramifications.

These policies will soon be before the school board for approval, but they have not decided on when that will happen.

Instructional Materials Review Committee members express concerns

Members of another committee, the Instructional Materials Review Committee, who are reviewing 93 books that have been challenged, are concerned that the guidelines created Monday will undermine the decisions they have made about the challenged books.

“They’re forming a committee where they handpick people that will subvert what’s going on with the book review committees,” BCSD Instructional Materials Review Committee Member, Penny Hanna, says.

“I think they can completely undermine our recommendation, because, it’s basically whatever the board decides gets taken out based on the recommendations made today,” Instructional Materials Review Committee member Carrie Kelly says.

They also have questions about how the members of this committee were chosen since the instructional materials review committee was open to the public.

“I am unaware of any public notification at all to allow people to volunteer, or to be considered for the sit on this meeting,” Hanna says. “It appears to me that it was a very handpicked committee.”

“I’m wondering how this committee was selected, because I’m a concerned parent, and I wanted to be involved in this process,” Kelly says.

Berkeley County School District’s Public Information Officer Katie Tanner says the school board approved this evaluation committee last November and was specific about who had to be represented.

She adds there were no public signups for the committee because executive directors over schools and principals sent in specific names.

Turner says the committees are completely independent of one another.