Delware school district wants kids to get signed permission before checking out YA library books

The Appoquinimink, DE school board is contemplating requiring parental permission slips for students who want to check YA novels out of their school library; district secondary education curriculum director Ray Gravuer came up with this silly idea in response to a parental complaint.

A parent was upset when his son was left "uncomfortable" by the sexual abuse themes in Ellen Hopkins's Identical, which was given to students who joined an optional, extra-curricular after-school reading club (the district already has a policy that allows students to request alternate choices for any book assigned).

The parent circulated a petition that would require the school to get parental permission for any YA book assigned to students, after first providing parents with a document setting out "the rationale and procedures for assigning/checking out books containing mature or explicit themes." As silly as this procedure is, the school board's proposal is even worse:

The other form that Gravuer presented to the board is titled "Parental Restriction of Voluntary Reading /Viewing Material." Those who choose to sign it would bar their children from checking out any Young Adult materials from school libraries. Again, uninquisitive parents who get their definition of Young Adult only from the school district (which they might logically assume to be a reliable source) could be easily swayed. The accompanying explanatory document says that "some common themes in young adult literature" are as follows:

[F]riendships, crime, divorce, forms of parenting, siblings, disease, sexual intercourse, drug/alcohol abuse, death, puberty, pop culture, race relations and school. Depending upon the author and/or work, this material may contain explicit descriptions of sensitive subject matter to which not all families are comfortable with exposing their children.

In reality, books designated by the publisher as Young Adult or Teen would comprise the bulk of high school library collections and students whose parents signed the form would be left without much to read. Fortunately, some parents who spoke out against Gravuer's proposal at last week's board meeting were able to foresee the can of worms it would open. Michael Wagner, who has a daughter in the Appoquinimink district, pointed out that "[w]e do not need a policy for parental restriction of reading material – it is already being done on [individual] request, and what is being proposed will be impossible to implement without broad strokes of censorship which is not appropriate in a public school system."

Delaware School District Considers Permission Slips for Young Adult Books [Maren Williams/CBLDF]