Just the Facts: Books!

Just the Facts Books

Welcome back to “Just the Facts”! 

One of the questions I have received repeatedly, especially recently, are questions about books. A number of moms, dads, and teachers have asked thoughtful, genuine questions, and I thought I might share a few of them here. 

Before I do, let me say simply: we have not “banned” a single book. We have removed age-inappropriate, sexually explicit content for minors. 

The School Board doesn’t have the authority to decide what you and your family read, and the majority of us believe those are choices you should make at home. On the other hand, the Board is responsible for doing everything we can to keep your children safe. 

Someone will read what I just wrote and ask, “But I heard the Superintendent removed books with sexual content from schools earlier this year?”. Again, schools should provide access to books that are both legal and support learning, not every book ever written. I, for one, encourage every parent to invest in reading, with any books they choose for their children, from the bookstore or public library. By definition, schools are centered on academics and should not be confused with the bookstore or public library. 

With that, let’s dig into the mailbag and answer some questions! 

Question from a parent: Why do the headlines say “book ban”? Since when are schools required to provide access to every book in the world? 

Great questions! I would guess the answer to the first question is newspapers and TV writers like to write catchy headlines…even if the headline isn’t true. 

The second question is one I’ve asked myself often since this rather odd debate started. Who on earth thinks schools should provide access to every book or movie ever made? Our libraries don’t have copies of rated “R” movies, but they aren’t “banned.” In Cobb, we don’t spend taxpayer dollars on those types of materials. I will say it again: parents may take their children to the movie theater or bookstore anytime they’d like. I am incredibly proud that, in Cobb, our staff spends school funds on books that are appropriate for minors and help students learn. 

Question from a teacher: Are we required to buy a book just because a student asks for it? What if the book isn’t part of the curriculum or aligned to standards? 

Another great question that’s also practical! My wife and daughter are both teachers, and this sounds like a question they have dealt with for years in their classrooms. 

As I mentioned earlier, school libraries are not like public libraries. They cannot contain every book someone might want to read. Most of our media centers are pretty small and have relatively few books and magazines, at least compared to the number of books and magazines someone might want to read. Every year, our staff removes thousands of old resources and adds many new ones. I did a casual search of our libraries and did not find any books by my favorite author, and again, that doesn’t mean that his books are banned. They just aren’t part of our curriculum. 

For those of you who are curious, I love to read and try to spend some time reading a good book at least a couple of times per week. 

Question from a student: I want to watch Netflix and listen to music in class. Why don’t my teachers let me? 

I couldn’t help but smile at the pure innocence in this question!! Well, we certainly hope school is fun, but first, we need students to be safe and parents to make lifestyle choices for their children. 

To keep students safe and to stay focused on learning, we don’t show rated “R” movies in our classrooms, we don’t play explicit music at dances or games, and we will certainly not provide sexually explicit or pornographic reading material to children. Not showing certain movies or playing certain songs in school doesn’t mean we’re “banning” them. I’m sure many of our students still watch rated “R” movies and listen to music with explicit lyrics at home. Our schools will never question the choices parents make for their children. Our schools are not the lifestyle or morality police - our staff is full of teachers, preparing your children to be scholars, leaders, and citizens

I acknowledge that some want our Board and schools to spend time and money on issues that have nothing to do with your child’s academic success. We all have experienced those debates (and associated drama) as COVID-19, racial debates, gender identity, the authority of parents, and now, books are leveraged by those who are trying to re-make your children’s schools into those found in Chicago, New York, and other districts in the country that are focused on something other than academics. 

The majority of our Cobb School Board has, and will, keep your children safe, protect world-class learning options for all students, and make sure Cobb families keep the authority to make choices that are best for their families. 

Board Chair Randy Scamihorn