The West Ada School District is pulling 10 books from its library shelves this week, according to internal emails obtained by EdNews.
Last week, Dennis Hahs, the district’s library coordinator, emailed the district’s librarians and principals a list of 44 titles being considered for removal, based on ratings from BookLooks.org, a website created by “concerned parents” in Brevard County, Florida.
A committee met Tuesday to consider the titles, and on Wednesday, Marcus Myers, the district’s chief academic officer, emailed principals to let them know 10 of the books “should be removed from circulation at all schools in the district.”
Myers said he would wait until Friday to send the message to librarians, but was letting administrators know ahead of time “to support additional conversations at the building level.”
Several librarians were invited to participate in the review, but “all opted out, declining to participate in the process,” Niki Scheppers, chief of staff for West Ada, wrote in a prepared statement, which also includes links to the pulled books’ reviews.
“While West Ada School District Librarian perspectives are valued, this particular committee was composed of dedicated individuals committed to the responsible and inclusive curation of our library resources,” Scheppers wrote.
The review committee included Hahs; Myers; the district’s curriculum director, Dustin Barrett; two secondary principals; and a secondary English teacher.
The decision to remove the books was not made public, and the discussion about the books occurred in a closed meeting of the review committee.
According to West Ada’s book review policy, those discussions would not have to become public unless a committee decision was challenged and brought before the school board, as occurred last month when trustees overturned the committee’s decision to keep a novel that indicted rape culture, “The Nowhere Girls,” in libraries.
The Nampa School District made national news last year for banning more than 20 books — a decision made in public at a school board meeting.
The books that West Ada pulled this week include:
- “A Stolen Life” by Jaycee Dugard
- “Collected Poems 1947-1980” by Allen Ginsberg
- “Empire of Storms” by Sarah J. Maas
- “Kingdom of Ash” by Sarah J. Maas
- “Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur
- “The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel” by Margaret Atwood and adapted by Renee Nault
- “The Sun and Her Flowers” by Rupi Kaur
- “Water for Elephants” by Sarah Gruen
- “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” by Gregory Maguire
- “You: A Novel” by Caroline Kepnes
“In the careful deliberation of our book review process, the decision to remove specific titles, particularly those with explicit and graphic content, is guided by thoughtful consideration,” Scheppers wrote. “Our paramount concern extends beyond the pages, as we prioritize the well-being and comfort of our diverse community.”
It was unclear if the remaining 34 titles would remain in libraries, or be considered for removal at a later date.
“We are currently meticulously reviewing multiple titles,” Scheppers wrote. “The decision to remove certain books from our library shelves is not made lightly. It is a deliberate choice aimed at fostering an environment that encourages diverse perspectives while ensuring the protection of our students.”
Zach Borman, president of the West Ada Education Association, said members were frustrated “about this recent trend and parts of the process that have led to it.”
“No one knows where this will end and what our libraries will look like when we get there,” he wrote in a prepared statement. “I think we are fooling ourselves if we think that the forces that have put our district in the place of purging our shelves will be satisfied with these efforts … For better or for worse, schools seem to be the frontline of the national culture war being fought, and currently, libraries are in the crosshairs.”
The Florida parents behind BookLooks.org, the website West Ada leaders used to create its list of 44 books to review, rated the books in question as inappropriate for minors (a 4 or 5 on its scale) due to what they considered to be “explicit sexual nudity”, “obscene references to sexual activities”, or “explicit references to aberrant sexual activities”.
“We believe sunlight is the best disinfectant and parents should have the information at their disposal to make informed decisions about the content their children consume,” the group’s “about” page reads.
The rating system also factors in content that depicts violence, hate, profanity, drug or alcohol use, or “references to sexuality, gender ideologies, or sexual activities.”
For each of the hundreds of books reviewed, the website also provides excerpts of content deemed inappropriate.. Here’s BookLook’s report on “The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel,” one of the books West Ada removed this week.
West Ada’s removals come amid a record surge of challenges in public libraries nationwide this year, according to preliminary data from the American Library Association.
Frequent book challenges have contributed to burnout and fatigue among Idaho librarians, and have led to self-censorship — libraries pulling books before they’re challenged to avoid potential conflict.
“It can be exhausting for a library director and staff to face angry parents and deal with complaints on an ongoing basis,” State Librarian Stephanie Bailey White told EdNews in October.
Plus, fears of legislation that would fine libraries for distributing materials deemed “harmful” to minors — like House Bill 314 that was introduced but failed during the last session — are driving some library and education leaders to take preemptive action.
“Anyone who wants to see important and challenging books like these stay in our schools had better be making some noise this legislative cycle, as they and the facilities that house them are not guaranteed,” Borman said. “We can’t protect them without the community’s support.”