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.