Nampa tables proposed process for reviewing challenged books

The Nampa School District, which garnered national attention for banning 22 library books earlier this year, has tabled a proposed procedure for handling future book complaints.

Trustees voted to hold off on adopting the procedure during a regular board meeting Monday, after realizing that they must first change a policy that oversees the district’s selection of library materials. That policy requires the district to follow its “uniform grievance procedure” when handling book complaints, not the proposed procedure the board considered Monday.

Board clerk Krissy LaMont encouraged trustees to first consider changing the policy to reflect the proposed procedure — something the board could not do Monday because a vote to change policy was not on the meeting’s agenda, which Idaho law requires.

As a result, the board opted unanimously for a work session to further align the policy and proposed procedure. Trustees in attendance Monday included board chair Jeff Kirkman, Brook Taylor and Marco Valle.

Monday’s decision follows the board’s controversial May 9 vote to ban books from its libraries — a decision that resulted in a confused and, at times, tense process.

EdNews requested emails tied to challenged books leading up to the board’s May 9 decision. The request turned up hundreds of pages of emails from patrons, staff, trustees and others.

In June, trustees asked Nampa interim superintendent Greg Russell to develop a new procedure for handling future book complaints after some board members decried the process leading up to the May 9 vote. The resulting proposal discussed Monday clarifies that book challenges be addressed first at the school or building level and includes information about how to proceed from there, if necessary.

Trustees agreed with the major steps outlined in the proposal, but disagreed on some aspects of what may be inappropriate for kids. Concerns about what kids have access to at school dominated the early part of Monday’s discussion.

“Just because you’re a librarian doesn’t mean you know what’s good for kids or not,” said Valle, who expressed concerns over the perceived sexualization of children and vulgarity in some library materials.

Taylor and Kirkman agreed with some of Valle’s points, but argued that gaining a consensus of what’s inappropriate is more difficult for some.

“What is the sexualization of children?” Kirkman asked, suggesting that the definition varies among different people.

Taylor pointed out that some children — including hers — are used to hearing language some would consider vulgar.

While the proposal would change the process for handling future book challenges, it could also pave the way for trustees to reconsider its past decision to ban books. That prospect didn’t come up during Monday’s meeting, but it has before. Kirkman, who voted with Valle and trustee Tracey Pearson to ban the books on May 9, hinted at possibly revisiting the matter at a later date in a May 23 email to a concerned patron.

There is “always an opportunity to revisit the motion after a solid and transparent process is in place …. ,” Kirkman wrote, adding that his vote on May 9 was meant to “pause” everything “until the board puts a proper and transparent procedure in place.”

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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