Category Archives: Censorship

And Tango Makes Three – The Final Saga

After taking a day or so to calm down and begin thinking rationally, I decided to investigate. But first, I was advised to do one last thing. I was told  it would be a good idea to send a letter to the Superintendent letting him know that I disagreed with his decision. This was to cover my bases in case this type of incident happened in the future.

This did not bode well with my Superintendent who promptly came to my office, gave me a verbal reprimand, handed me a legal letter stating that he now had to put me on 14-day “whistle blower protection status” as per corporation policy. And, oh the horror of it all….he had to investigate how the matter was handled. In other words, he had to investigate himself. I look back at it now, shake my head and laugh. But at the time…I’ll admit it…I was starting to get worried that he could really make my life miserable at school.

I decided that I needed to do a little investigating as well. It was truly not to prove the Superintendent wrong. He had told me I was wrong about the policy issue. Now, my dear reader…I’ll admit it…I don’t like being wrong. And if I truly am wrong, I need to correct my way of thinking and research the correct answer. Whew…glad I got that out. Anyway, on to the investigation.

I contacted 2 people whom I had met at a librarian’s conference. One was a professor/librarian at Purdue University, and the other was a reference librarian at Notre Dame. They both insisted that the Superintendent was wrong and pointed me toward the Director of the Office of Intellectual Freedom with the American Library Association (ALA). She also insisted the Superintendent was wrong and, if I felt that my job was in jeopardy, I should contact them and the ALA would back me up. But my question was still unanswered. I needed a legal reason as to why this was handled improperly. I knew it was wrong, but I needed a concrete legal reason. She then pointed me toward a wonderful lawyer from Indy whose wife happened to be a teacher. He had done some work on censorship issues and understood school politics.

Yes…I got my answer! The lawyer explained that, since the school did not have a policy in place regarding in-house complaints, the complaint should have fallen under the public complaint policy. He also said he wished we had an ACLU office with a plaintiff in good standing. The administration would be “up a creek without a paddle”. I expressed my extreme thanks to him but said that my job is more important than a book. I had been previously advised to drop the matter with the Superintendent. And, now that I knew I wasn’t wrong and had a legal reason to back it up, I was ready to drop it. He agreed that my job was more important and that it would be fine to drop the matter.

So, this saga has come to an end. The penguin books are in the closets in the principals’ offices and can be checked out only if a parent requests it. Our school policy needs to be changed, but that has fallen on deaf ears. However, I am now armed with better knowledge should the case happen again. As I said before, it’s not the content of the book in question. The problem was the way it was handled. I happen to have a large section of Christian fiction books in my library…as requested by a large number of patrons. What if I have an atheist on staff that requests them all to be removed? What if a person on staff asks to have all books with Muslim characters removed? What if a person on staff finds a work of urban gang fiction offensive and asks to have all of them removed? There’s got to be a system of checks and balances in place. I can only hope that something I’ve said in these last three posts can, in some way, help another librarian out there who might be going through the same thing.


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And Tango Makes Three – Part 2

Continuing the saga…

I knew that the handling of this situation was against policy. It was time to talk to the superintendent with our policy in hand. He informed me that this was an “in-house complaint” and was not a part of our public complaint policy. I asked him (with witnessess in the room), “So you mean to say that any employee can make a complaint about a book in our libraries and, because they are ‘in-house’, any book could be removed at will by the principals without documentation?” Take a wild guess at his answer…. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Yes.”

Later on, he paid me a visit in my office to explain further. I was ready for him, but there was no breaking through. He even had the nerve to play the religion card. The superintendent and I are both of the same denomination. I calmly informed him that, if I stocked my library based on my religious beliefs, 1/3 of the books would be removed. However, I am employed by a public school and must put my personal beliefs aside and order books that speak to my demographics. And, this has nothing to do with the subject of the book in question. This situation was about policy not being followed. He then said that this was not a policy issue because it was “in-house”. It was a done deal. He left my office with a satisfied look on his face, and I had a resolve to get to the bottom of this policy issue.

To be continued…

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And Tango Makes Three…Seriously?!

Should I or should I not delve in the dark world or censorship? I’ve finally decided that my experiences need to be made known. If it helps at least one librarian, my trials and tribulations will not be in vain.

It all started a few years ago in September. The school year had started smoothly until I received an email from a librarian at an elementary school in my district. A school employee had heard about a book on a radio broadcast and wanted to have it removed from the library due to the subject matter. The “offensive” book was And Tango Makes Three.  Th0se of us in the children’s lit. trenches are well-acquainted with the book since it has received much press since it was published.

Back to the story at hand…the principal was approached by the school employee, agreed with said employee and told the librarian to remove it from the collection. Well…as any good librarian would know, this could not be done because school board policy was not followed. Papers need to be filled out and a committee needed to read the book and make a recommendation based on the findings. A book cannot be removed just based on one person’s opinion and the judgement of the principal.

Little did we know that the same problem was coming to light at another elementary school in the district. The disgruntled school employee’s spouse worked in the other building and also asked that the book be removed. However, that spouse went to the librarian first and was getting the necessary paperwork to fill out.

Oh, but wait…it gets better. In the meantime, back at the administration building, the principals were having a regular principal’s meeting (their timing was impecccable). They decided, as elementary principals, that the book would be removed from all elementary libraries in the district. Done deal. Let’s not even tell the K-12 Library Media Coordinator (me!). The superintendant okay’d it, and the job was done. The principals let their librarian’s know that afternoon. All of this took place in approximately 3 days.

To be continued…

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