Source: Greensboro News & Record
Last week, individuals who vehemently protested a sensible new policy regarding formal book ban requests in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools were essentially creating a commotion without substance, according to the News & Record. The recently approved policy, endorsed by a 6-3 vote from the school board, establishes that only parents or guardians of students within the local public school district possess the authority to submit such requests.
This seems entirely reasonable. If the intention behind efforts, as asserted by groups like Moms for Liberty, is to amplify parental voices, this policy effectively accommodates that objective. What it unequivocally restricts is the interference of individuals or organizations lacking direct affiliations or personal stakes in the matter, thereby preventing them from consuming the valuable time and attention of the school board and administrators in determining the appropriateness of instructional materials.
This measure aims to curtail grandstanding and disruptions from those who neither have children in the schools nor are employed by them, but may harbor political motives.
However, some school board members and Moms for Liberty have voiced dissent against the new policy. Board member Susan Miller expressed disagreement, emphasizing the importance of taxpayers’ ability to comment or file grievances.
While acknowledging the sense of ownership that taxpayers should feel towards schools due to their crucial role in our economy and quality of life, there are reasonable limits. Being a taxpayer grants a voice but does not confer the right to dictate instructional materials for all children.
Critics argue that, as stakeholders and funding sources, taxpayers have the right to direct the work of public schools. However, this reasoning implies that any taxpayer can impose their opinion on school policy, which is neither logical nor practical.
Nationally, there has been a 33% increase in book bans in public schools in 2022-23 compared to the previous school year, according to Pen America, an organization advocating for free expression in literature. Moms for Liberty has been behind many of these challenges, filing 189 against 20 books in Wake County Public Schools libraries. Forsyth County school leaders’ new policy aligns with the thinking of other large school districts, allowing concerns to be voiced by individuals with students enrolled in any local public school but restricting formal challenges to parents or guardians.
This policy is both fair-minded and sensible, providing a voice for those directly connected to the materials in schools while avoiding unnecessary disruptions. As Dionne Jenkins, the district’s attorney, pointed out, it aligns with policies in other large school districts and will likely allow school leaders to focus more on their primary mission: educating children. Interestingly, despite the uproar over book banning, the district received not a single formal request to remove a book in the 2022-23 academic year, according to a district spokesman.