Boyle Schools puts back library books after removal

Published 10:45 am Tuesday, January 16, 2024

The Boyle County School District put 106 books back in libraries across the five schools, which were initially removed in response to Kentucky Senate Bill 150.

SB 150 is a new state law that changes how schools teach about gender identity and human sexuality. Among other things, it requires public schools to notify parents about instruction related to sexuality; establishes requirements for any public school’s curriculum on human sexuality; and does not allow students to receive any instruction or presentation that has a purpose of students studying gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.

Based on language in the law, the district removed 106 library books from schools. Boyle Superintendent Mark Wade explained that leadership reviewed current courses, programming, instructional resources, and worked with school library media specialists, and legal council to ensure compliance with the law.

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Parents argued in a September school board meeting that the law doesn’t mention library books, and that removal of material only applies to what teachers use in the classroom.

Later on, the Kentucky Department of Education stated that SB 150 does not provide for the removal of library media resources from a school library. Joe Ragusa, a spokesperson for KDE, explained that the law only applies to materials used in the classroom to teach about sexuality, gender identity, etc.

Section 2 of SB 150 “If a school council or, if none exists, the principal adopts a curriculum for human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases, instruction shall include but not be limited to the following content…”

Ragusa explained that Subsection 1 is based on the fact that the school has a curriculum for human sexuality or STDs. This section would not impact the availability of library books, but may impact their use in local classroom curriculum for human sexuality or STDs.

Subsection 2 addresses requirements for “[a]ny course, curriculum or program offered by a public school on the subject of human sexuality.”

“If library media resources are associated with and used for a course, curriculum, or program on human sexuality, they would be impacted by the requirements of this subsection and should provide an alternative without penalty for students and be subject to parent inspection and notification,” Ragusa said. “If the library media resources are not used for a course, curriculum or program on human sexuality, this subsection does not apply.”

After KDE released the above guidance to schools, the Boyle district released a statement saying that they returned all books to the libraries.

“Prior to KDE’s established guidance, our district concluded that library resources constitute instructional materials. In light of KDE’s latest statement, our district will be returning all books removed in response to SB 150,” according to the district’s November statement.

Parents still have the option to request limitations on their child’s ability to check out specific texts from school libraries. Those requests can be submitted to the school library media specialist.

“The Boyle County School district remains committed to educating and providing amazing opportunities for all students while respecting parental rights and following the law,” Wade said.

Ragusa said that the KDE is not aware of other districts that have removed library books due to SB 150.

However, he said districts have long standing policies and procedures to review instructional materials and library media resources. Districts can make decisions to remove books, but KDE does not have authority as to whether districts face any repercussions for removing books.

“Districts have policies for the review of materials,” Ragusa said. “There may be disagreement about the books selected for review and ultimate outcome of that review, but KDE doesn’t have an enforcement mechanism to change the outcome of those decisions.”

Some books that were removed and put back include “Gender in the 21st Century” by M.M. Eboch, “Only Mostly Devastated” by Sophie Gonzales, “Julian is a Mermaid” by Jessica Love and “The League of Super Feminists” by Mirion Malle.

The district’s full library catalog of all schools can be found on the district website.