Criminal Librarians?

In the battle to privatize Tennessee’s public schools, school librarians have become “collateral damage.” The attacks have become so great that those oft-quiet librarians are standing up and taking notice.

In fact, one Tennessee librarian took to the pages of American Libraries to explain the plight of librarians as it relates to the current “culture war” being won by proponents of evangelical exceptionalism at the Tennessee General Assembly.

Here’s some of what Nashville’s Lindsey Kimery has to say about the attack on the librarians inside our public schools:

We can’t help but see school libraries and school librarians as collateral damage in the wake of midterm elections and extremism against public education. Being a school librarian is an honorable profession, but some have attempted to align it with criminality. We know we are trained professionals, and we work tirelessly to tailor our collections to our students’ needs and the needs of our school communities.

The chilling effect of this legislation will linger as we watch and wait for what’s next; though the bill is dead for the rest of the year, it could resurrect in some form next year. School librarians and administrators may feel pressure to think twice about purchasing materials for our LGBTQIA+ students and for students of the global majority who are minorities in their own communities. Their narratives have been especially targeted by supporters of this legislation. School librarians are concerned about the level of support they will receive from their school district should they face a book challenge. In January, the graphic novel Maus was removed from the curriculum by the McMinn County School Board, and Newbery winner Walk Two Moons was removed from the curriculum in Williamson County. What will be the first book to be removed at the state level?

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What will be the first book to be removed at the state level? That is, indeed, a fair question.

Indeed, another fair question: Will the relentless attacks on our public schools by the like of Gov. Bill Lee and his acolytes pave a clear path to a fully funded school voucher scheme?

Emiliano Bar/Unsplash

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Williamson County Parent Group Speaks Out on Book Bans

Williamson County parent group OneWillCo spoke out this week on the issue of book banning and giving authority the State Textbook Commission to ban books in public school libraries.

Here’s more from a press release:

In light of the state-wide polling that shows that Tennesseans are opposed to book bans, the co-founders of One WillCo, Revida Rahman and Jennifer Cortez, speak up about their ongoing work in Williamson County Schools. One WillCo works to support equity, representation, and safety in schools for students of all races and backgrounds.

“Just like the majority of Tennesseans, at One WillCo we believe that whatever our color or background, we want our children to have an education that tells the truth about our shared history,” said Revida Rahman, one of the founders of One WillCo. “Unfortunately, we are at a point where there is a loud minority of people who are trying to silence voices and ban books that tell the truth in an age-appropriate way. When I see leaders trying to censor the truth of our history, passing laws to ban learning from the mistakes of our past and to erase leaders–even those like Martin Luther King, Jr.–who stood up to racism and changed our country for the better, I am discouraged. But seeing the results of this polling and knowing the majority of Tennesseans agree with us that book bans are not the way to move forward, we are energized to continue to join together, speak up at school board meetings, and do the hard work of ensuring that every student, no matter their race, is able to feel safe in school and receive a high quality education that allows them to feel seen, heard, and represented.”

“From our work in Williamson County we know that the vast majority of parents and educators agree that our students need to learn the truth about our history so we can learn from the past and create a better future together,” said Jennifer Cortez, one of the founders of One WillCo. “And thanks to this polling, we know that the majority of Tennesseans across the state agree with us. Students miss out when we attempt to whitewash our history, or worse yet, to perpetuate myths about what has happened in our country surrounding race. Even many of our lawmakers lack a basic understanding of much of our nation’s history surrounding race; we were never taught it. Today’s students, and students of future generations deserve to know the whole story of our nation’s history, even the parts we wish we could erase. Only an honest education will prepare our children for the future, equip them with the knowledge they deserve, and help them better understand the lives, cultures and experiences of different people. Not only does this provide our children with a high quality education, it also creates an environment where students of all races feel represented and safe.” 

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Gross

Those rabble rousers over at the Tennessee Association of School Librarians (TASL) are out with a statement condemning the “gross overreach” of an amendment to HB2666 that would give the State Textbook Commission authority over books in school libraries. That is, the bill would require all books in school libraries to be on an “approved” list provided by the Textbook Commission.

Here’s the TASL statement on the bill, scheduled for a vote tomorrow (4/27/2022):

In response to the proposed measure, a group of concerned parents and public school advocates is organizing a protest at the Capitol:

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Who Knew?

Tennessee Textbook Commissioner and potential House of Representatives candidate Laurie-Cardoza Moore testified before House subcommittee yesterday that she believed the commission on which she serves should have expanded authority to be able to regulate books that appear on school library shelves.

Here’s video of her remarks and a montage of clips about her background:

https://twitter.com/TheTNHoller/status/1499429183512006658?s=20&t=9XnuMR8a0egB_MOgfEncYA

If only there had been a way to know this would happen:

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Declined

Cancel culture advocates Moms for Liberty saw a complaint they filed around curriculum in Williamson County rejected by the Tennessee Department of Education. The complaint did not follow proper procedure and was related to an issue outside the timeframe allowed in legislation that attempts to strictly regulate how issues around race are taught in schools.

The Tennessean has more:

The Tennessee Department of Education recently declined to investigate a complaint filed under a new state law prohibiting the teaching of certain topics regarding race and bias.

The complaint, the first directed to the state under the new law passed this spring, was filed by Robin Steenman, chair of the Moms for Liberty Williamson County chapter, a conservative parent group sweeping the nation.

The group detailed concerns with four specific books on subjects like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington, the integration of California schools by advocate Sylvia Mendez and her family, and the autobiography of Ruby Bridges, adapted for younger learners.

The TDOE did not rule on the merits of the complaint, however.

“Please note that in declining to investigate these claims, the department has not made a determination regarding the merits of these allegations. We encourage you to work with the Williamson County School District to resolve the issues and concerns related to your complaint and ensure compliance with state law,” the letter said.

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