Nonprofit Alliance Urges Canby School District to Revise Book Challenge Policy

An alliance of national educational nonprofits sent a letter to the Canby School District Board of Directors last week, urging it to revise its policy in which library books can be removed from circulation pending review, upon request by any parent or community member.

The March 30 letter from the National Coalition Against Censorship concerned the recent removal of more than 35 books from middle and high school libraries, based on requests filed by two district parents.

Since the Canby School District does not have a specific policy allowing library books to be reconsidered based on residents’ concerns, the two parents used a process that is in place for curriculum or any other instructional materials to be reviewed.

And, though this policy allows the material or activity in question to continue to be used (at the principal’s discretion) until the matter is resolved, a spokeswoman told the Current last month that the district’s routine practice in these cases is to pull the books when a request is made.

It is primarily this part of the policy that the coalition’s letter concerned.


“That policy may encourage some people to file meritless challenges for the sole purpose of limiting students’ access to ideas they dislike,” the letter read. “In addition to harming students, such challenges may put enormous strain on the district, which will be required to spend time adjudicating baseless claims.

“Many districts avoid that problem by creating policies that state that challenged materials must remain on shelves while in review. Therefore, we encourage you to consider amending your policy to include a statement affirming that access to materials will not be restricted during reconsideration procedures.”

The letter from NCAC Executive Director Chris Finan was cosigned by American Booksellers for Free Expression, The Authors Guild, Children’s and Young Adult Books Committee, PEN America, National Council of Teachers of English and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Because of the volume of books the two parents requested to be reconsidered, district officials said a review committee likely would not be possible until this summer.

So, even if some or all of the books are approved by the review committee and, ultimately, the Canby School Board, they will still have been off the shelves and out of students’ hands for a minimum of six months.

In a demonstration protesting the district’s action last month, one student equated the policy to the books being “guilty until proven innocent.”

“These books need to have their day in court,” senior Avery Keinonen said.

A request for comment from district and school board leadership, sent outside of normal business hours, was not immediately returned. This story will be updated if we receive a response.

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