‘Media advisory’ boards would review complaints over certain books in schools

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  • Inside the 2023 N.C. House budget, measures intended to improve transparency of classroom materials include setting up local "community media advisory committees" for every local board of education.

Within the 2023 N.C. House budget there is policy intended to improve transparency regarding classroom materials in K-12 schools. One directs every local board of education to form a local “community media advisory committee,” tasked with “evaluating challenges from parents, teachers, and members of the public to instructional materials and supplemental materials because they are unfit.” 

In recent years, school boards across the state have had a fragmented approach to addressing concerns about material in k-12 classrooms or libraries. Individual schools would independently review and remove content, but the results of their review often failed to reach other schools within the same district. The policy written into the budget is an effort by lawmakers to establish consistency and coordination.

In light of the fragmented approach across the state, the New Hanover County Board of Education is among the systems to set up their own process to handle complaints. In early April, Melissa Mason, a newly-elected Republican, brought forward a District-Wide Book Review Committee Proposal with the mission to “establish excellence in our libraries and classrooms and provide students with the highest quality literature in every library, classroom, and textbook.”

“The current process directs parents to communicate with individual schools to remove objectionable content,” Mason told Carolina Journal. “If it is deemed inappropriate, it is removed from one school only. It stands to reason that if the content of a book is unacceptable in one school, it is unacceptable for all schools within that age bracket.”

Under the policy in the proposed budget, at least 12 members would comprise each local community media advisory committee, including a principal, teacher, parent, and library media coordinator from a district’s high school, middle school, and elementary school. Challenges to materials inside the schools would be made to the Board of Education in writing, and must be made on the grounds of content “being obscene, inappropriate to the age, maturity, or grade level of the students, or not aligned with the standard course of study.” 

The committee would have two weeks to hold a hearing in which the challenger would present their case for the material to be removed. Following the hearing, the committee would have two weeks to make a required recommendation to the full board of education. The board would decide whether the “challenge has merit and whether the challenged material should be retained or removed as unfit material.” 

Mason has seen some of this content in local New Hanover County Schools. 

“The content within the literature was both disturbing and obscene, involving vivid descriptions of sexual acts and molestation,” she said. “As I have a background in education, including the study of cognitive development in children, it has been apparent to me that this type of media was not suitable for students and offered little to no educational value.”

Along with the creation of a local committee, the House budget forms a State Community Media Advisory Committee under The State Board of Education. The state committee has a similar number of members to the local committees and is responsible for hearing any appeals of a local board of education decision. The state committee would generate a recommendation to be voted on by the State Board of Education. All decisions would be final and not subject to any further review. 

The House budget was passed by lawmakers in that chamber on, moving on to the made its North Carolina Senate. View our continued coverage here