Parent complaints lead to new book review process

Oregon Moms Union presents concerns about explicit content in school libraries


Kaelyn Jones

After the Oregon Moms Union voiced discomfort with these four books among others, the new review process has been put into action.

Available to all students, the library provides easy access to materials and content spanning across all genres and topics. Books ranging from fantasy to research materials are all available for anybody interested in reading and exploring new topics. For many, the library is an important source of information and entertainment. 

Multiple members of the Oregon Moms Union (OMU) attended the WLWV monthly school board meeting on Nov. 14. The speakers attending presented their concerns for content they felt was inappropriately placed in school libraries. Some of the titles presented included  “Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur, “Heartstopper” by Alice Oseman, and “Crank” by Ellen Hopkins. 

These books and others mentioned at the meeting contain content regarding drugs, abuse, sexuality, and gender identity. The OMU raised questions about having this material accessible to students.

Conor Greaney is the high school librarian. Currently, the library has review processes that are already in place. 

“We have a book as the librarian team that kind of has a lot of guiding things for us,” Greaney said. “[We think] about what our students are interested in- what’s relevant to them. Are we providing different viewpoints on controversial issues? Are we promoting diversity and helping our students become aware of different perspectives and lived experiences?” 

Since the Nov. 14 meeting, the school board has announced a new review process for books of concern. The Office of Teaching and Learning, including David Pryor, who oversees district libraries, will conduct complete reviews for any complaints received. The review process will include district admin, and librarians as well as community members and parents, and decisions will be formed based on a full review of the book material, rather than out of context passages.

The review process will take into account the age category that the book is accessible to (high school, junior high, or elementary). After the completion of the review, books will either be left in place, relocated to an advisory location, or removed from the library entirely.

“[The new review process] doesn’t differ too much. We’ve always had a complaint process where [parents and staff] can have a first conversation after school, and then if it doesn’t get resolved, it moves through the principal and then comes to an assistant superintendent like myself,” Pryor said. “This is consistent, but since we had eight titles coming forward, we wanted to put together a process that was fair and did our best to protect the rights of students and be responsive to the community.”

The final decisions on book complaints will be based not only on staff and administration opinions, but outside sources as well. 

“We have to have evidence from a variety of sources that the book was not appropriate for age levels, or that it was outside of our selection criteria. We use organizations like the Association of School libraries, Common Sense Media, samples, and recommendations of use by professionals, like psychologists or medical professionals,” Pryor said. “We would need to see something that indicated from those professionals or organizations that it was not appropriate.”