Houston County Schools take proactive approach to “controversial” library content

HOUSTON COUNTY, Ala. (WTVY) – Earlier this school year, after noticing certain reading materials online that all students could access, a Houston County teacher brought the concern to school officials.

Teachingbooks.net is a resource provided through the Alabama Virtual Library.

“When we started looking into that, we had to change some things and we had to block some of the access and allow our teachers to just give certain access to books for our students to try to keep them from seeing some of the controversial material that was available,” explains Brandy White, Superintendent of Houston County Schools.

Specifically, books related to gender and sexual identity.

White continues, “We found quite a bit of material related to transgender, LGBTQ, and some of that was for very low grade levels and it was just inappropriate for our students we felt.”

He says as a school district, they want to be proactive.

“I feel like our parents would not want their children to have access to this, however, with online access the way that it is now, these children have access to that at home, and so I think our parents also need to be very careful at home,” expresses White.

For books inside school libraries, they go through a screening process before placement.

“When I do a book order at the beginning of the year, it takes me a long time to go through everything,” says Elizabeth Terry, Media Specialist at Rehobeth Elementary School. “I’m very selective with everything that I buy for the library. I want to make sure that I’ve looked at almost everything that comes through.”

Terry explains that sometimes literature can be controversial depending on the age group reading it, and that’s why they’re extra cautious.

“You may have a child that is reading at a high level, higher than their grade level, and we have to make sure that we kind of guide them as they choose material that doesn’t have more mature content than what they can understand at their age,” Terry finishes.

Ensuring the top priority is educating students in a safe space with appropriate resources.

Houston County Schools has a policy in place where parents can challenge materials.

If brought to the board’s attention and deemed inappropriate, student access will be removed.

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