BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) – A lengthy challenge and appeal process to a controversial book taught in schools prompted Brunswick County officials to rethink their policies for challenging and selecting school materials.
Last month, the board voted to keep Alice Walker's novel, The Color Purple in schools even after a hot public debate. But that decision made school board leaders rethink their policies for challenging school materials.
It started in the middle of last year, when County Commissioner Pat Sykes first challenged the book to West Brunswick High School. Sykes said the book is inappropriate for teenagers due to the sexual content and language used in the novel.
A school committee denied her challenged, so Sykes appealed that ruling to the superintendent.
Dr. Edward Pruden denied her appeal, so Sykes appealed once more, this time to the school board.
After hours of debate, the school board upheld Pruden's decision to keep the book in school.
Board members have agreed that the process of challenging school materials is flawed.
The first appeal went to the individual school improvement team; then the superintendent, then finally the board. In total, the process lasted more than three months and gained national attention.
The board wanted two things: More parent representation on individual school improvement teams; and the addition of a community media advisory committee to add another level of advisement.
The board voted Tuesday to maintain the current policy which allows parents to have the final say in what their children are learning.
Based on recommendations from the state board of education, Brunswick school leaders are also considering the implementation of a Community Media Advisory Committee made up of various school officials, parents, and a student from the community.
That committee would provide recommendations to the board for challenged materials when appeals reach that level.
A spokesperson for Brunswick County Schools, Jessica Swencki believes this whole process was an eye-opener for those involved.
"I think this entire process has been a truly educational experience for our board members, our staff, and our community," said Swencki. "I think that's an important piece as we move forward. That transparency and the things that will come from this conversation will be great tools for our system in the future."
The Superintendent of Brunswick County Schools, Dr. Edward Pruden also recommended that an annotated bibliography of possible materials be provided to parents. It's just one additional step to make everything
transparent. Curriculum coaches will be responsible for providing background of the literary merit of each possible book and why it is being taught in schools.
These policy revisions would be implemented for next semester and would clean up any questions for selection and challenging of school materials.
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