ORANGE BEACH — Orange Beach City Schools may be making some changes after taking a closer look at certain books offered in the middle and high school library.
Orange Beach Middle School and Orange Beach High School students share a library. The small selection of books contains primarily educational guides that teachers have requested. However, the school system also wants to provide books of interest to students as long as the selection is age-appropriate.
According to school officials, students with access to the library are typically ages 12 to 18. With a wide age range, Director of Curriculum & Instruction Dr. Robbie Smith told 1819 News it can be challenging to ensure younger students are not exposed to content intended for older students.
After a review of the books offered, 1819 News identified seven books that contained foul language or explicit sexual content that may not be suitable for some students. Smith said some parents may not want their children exposed to some content. While it can seem innocent at first glance, Smith noted the books need to be reviewed closely.
Superintendent Randy Wilkes said a regular review of the selection may be warranted.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 plus years now, and really, you going in and doing these things is really shedding light on an area that we’ve got to do a better job,” Wilkes told 1819 News.
The seven books included “The Year I Stopped Trying,” by Katie Heaney, which describes masturbation and other sexual content, “Dare to Disappoint,” by Michael Berry, which contains cursing and shows police torturing and beating people for having right-winged ideas, and other books, pictured above.
The books are now undergoing the challenged materials process, where a committee will decide if they should stay in the library.
“It’s pretty simple. The F-word is profanity and if someone uses the F-word, writes the F-word or something of that nature, we have a code of conduct that tells us what we need to do as far as discipline,” Wilkes said. “I don’t know why written text would be any different than something in the library.”
“I would imagine books that contain such language as that- and of course I don’t want to get ahead of the committee; they have to walk in with a blank slate – but I would imagine that would be found inappropriate for our students and most likely would be pulled,” he continued. “I’m stopping just short of stating the obvious because we are just not going to have that in our school libraries.”
Wilkes said that for a school library, it is essential that books sharpen skills and address interests, but he does not want lewd acts or profanity in the books.
“If people want to be exposed to that, it won’t be in our school libraries, and we are not going to provide that opportunity,” said Wilkes.
Wilkes said he wants parents to be aware of the challenged material process. They can contact the school office regarding any reading assignment or book that causes concern.
“It’s good, healthy conversation, in my opinion, that we need to have as to what is appropriate for our students, for our parents and for their children,” he added. “So, I hope the parents walk away knowing there is a process for such and that we take very seriously the material that we provide for our students. It plays a huge role in shaping the minds of young people as they develop into adulthood and we take that responsibility very seriously. This is an opportunity for school systems to re-evaluate their process.”
Wilkes said he would like to see volunteers come forward to participate in the library inventory reviewing process.
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