Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) Superintendent Erick Mackey said at a Thursday meeting that he would encourage school superintendents to adopt policies for challenging school library books.

Libraries have shot to the forefront of Alabama’s political discourse, with sexually explicit books in public and school libraries raising public concern in recent months.

According to Mackey, local school superintendents are being encouraged to adopt policies for concerned parents to challenge specific books that might be objectionable. He also said one school system has independently decided to audit its elementary books to check for inappropriate materials.

“We’ve not really heard any issues,” Mackey said. “There is one school district that has launched their own sort of internal audit; they’re just going through all their elementary libraries and evaluating their collections to see if they feel like they have anything. Not that parents are challenging it, but anything they wanted to kind of basically challenge for their own administration to just check. It’s one of our very large systems with a lot of elementary schools. So they are doing that now. I mentioned that to superintendents that that was an option, they might could all want to do that. Just go through and look at their collections, especially if they have really big programs.”

Mackey said the Alabama Association of School Boards has book challenges as a part of their model policy, which means all AASB members can access those policies.

Board member Belinda Mcrae said she had talked with an elementary librarian who spoke of receiving unsolicited books from publishers that contained objectionable material.  

“I asked her if she had been receiving any materials that she thought should not be put out, and she said ‘yes,’” Mcrae said. “And I said, ‘Where are they coming from?’ and she said, ‘book companies. Book companies just send them as samples. Years ago, I could just put them on the shelf without reading them. Now, I sit down and read every book before I put it out, and I make the determination whether or not this would be accepted by this community.’”

Mcrae continued, “She told me about a book that had a unicorn on it that she put out because it was such a cute little picture, and she thought it was a book about unicorns. And then she found out it was definitely not about unicorns, so she took it down.”

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