Schools adopt ‘framework’ to challenge controversial books, materials

Mar 4, 2023

If parents want to challenge the content of books or instructional materials in school and classroom libraries, they now have the opportunity to do so. 

At its meeting on Thursday, March 2, the School Committee updated the District’s policy for selecting library materials, allowing parents to make formal complaints.

The Committee made the update in response to a nationwide trend of community members challenging and banning books from school libraries due to allegedly inappropriate content. 

“It was starting to become [prevalent] in neighboring towns and in other districts,” said School Committee member Apryl Rossi, “not necessarily just in this area, but throughout Massachusetts and, moreover, throughout the country.”

According to Rossi, the School Committee has yet to hear any complaints about books.

“I think we're blessed in Wareham because we live in such a diverse community,” Rossi said. “[The schools are] really wildly accepting of letting kids be who they are... to make sure that they have information on any given subject, one way or the other.”

There was no district policy for submitting complaints prior to Feb. 2.

“It gives the School Committee and the teachers and the librarians a framework,” Rossi said.

Rossi said that the Massachusetts Association of School Committees encouraged the policy change.

The neighboring Old Rochester Regional School District has received multiple complaints about books and instructional material that deal with issues of race and sexuality.

“Across the country people [are] taking issue with certain pieces of literature, certain books, certain topics and things that are controversial by interpretation,” Rossi said.

The policy outlines the District’s procedure for receiving complaints, and instructs complaining parents or community members to go through a “chain of command.”

First, complainants will talk to the teacher whose classroom contains the controversial book or material. If the teacher cannot resolve the issue, the complaint will go to the principal, then the School Committee.

All complaints must be submitted in writing.

The policy states that only the school principal has the authority to approve classroom materials. However, the principal’s choices must be approved by the superintendent.

“Ultimately, I am responsible,” said Superintendent Dr. Matthew D’Andrea, and I am OK with that.”