Dist. 11 school board reviews changes to media policy

After parents complained about “Eleanor & Park,” the book selected for the Anoka-Hennepin School District’s Rock the Book summer reading program in 2013, the school board initiated an administrative review of media selection policies.

Recommendations to alter media policies were brought before the school board for consideration at the board meeting Feb. 24 and at a work session March 10. The board will see the policies again when it is asked to approve them, likely at the next regular board meeting March 24.

Two policies, 603.1 Curriculum Development and Materials Selection and 606.2 Library Media Materials Selection, set guidelines to help educators and media specialists determine which materials are appropriate in which settings.

The two policies are distinct. One governs media selected by staff for instruction and the other covers general media in the library.

In proposed changes to both policies, definitions have been tightened.

It’s clear now that media selected for classroom use or extracurricular programs should be evaluated under the Curriculum Development policy. Media used in extracurricular programming was a gray area before proposed changes.

Reconsideration processes have been updated in both policies and are similar.

“There isn’t a consensus in terms of how school districts process through a reconsideration process,” Chief Technology and Information Officer Joel VerDuin determined after looking at the policies of neighboring districts and districts of similar size.

Previously in District 11, the challenge process saw a committee at the building level review disputed media. If a challenger disagreed with the committee’s decision, he or she could appeal to the school board.

Now, with proposed changes, a committee at the building level will still meet and confer. It will pass its recommendation on to a district-level committee, led by the superintendent. The district committee will ultimately discern whether policy was followed and decide if there is any district-wide impact.

“Eleanor & Park” remains on library shelves after a committee out of Anoka High School decided the book’s fate.

“It is my concern, and I think a reasonable one, that if a school committee were to make a decision on any particular set of materials, someone needs to answer the question, well, what if that material exists within other buildings,” VerDuin said.

On appeal, a school board-appointed committee will review the challenge. A second appeal will bring the matter before the school board, according to changes proposed at the work session March 10, VerDuin explained.

In the proposed Library Media policy, “reputable” review sources are now spelled out, and changes introduce new criteria for weeding materials from the media center.

In the Curriculum Development policy, R-rated movies were “the beginning and the end” of the district’s policy on controversial materials before proposed changes, according to VerDuin. “We’ve essentially taken and broadened that out to include any materials beyond video.”

The proposed changes to the policy call for “reputable review sources” to be consulted.

Olivia Koester is at [email protected]