No matter how careful you have been in your selection of material, at some point one of your library’s resources may be challenged as inappropriate by students, parents or staff.
Prepare yourself and your school to deal with intellectual freedom issues before a challenge occurs. Promote the idea of intellectual freedom as given in ALA’s Library Bill of Rights:
You should also be familiar with the ALA Freedom to Read Statement:
Facilitate a conversation about intellectual freedom among the teachers at your school. Get consensus on the rights of parents in determining their own children’s access to materials but not other children’s access to read, view, or listen to materials from the school library. The principal should review the selection and challenged materials policy with the teaching staff at least annually.
Make sure that your collection development criteria match the curriculum, age level of your students and the religious and cultural atmosphere of your community.
Prepare your school with policies and procedures to navigate the challenge process in a fair and reasonable manner. The New York City Office of Library Services has provided three documents to serve as a Challenged Materials Policy Template. See below the following documents New York City Collection Development Policy, Patron’s Request for Reconsideration of a Work, and Materials Evaluation Committee Report Form.
If a challenge occurs, be sure to inform the principal and the Office of Library Services. Most importantly, follow the procedure outlined in your Collection Development Policy. Start the process and step back and let it work. Reasonable consideration of challenged material through careful adherence to a challenged material procedure will result in a decision that will be best for your school community.
Despite the care taken to select valuable materials for student/teacher use and the qualifications of persons who select the materials, objections will occasionally be made. The principles of the freedom to read and the professional responsibility of the staff must be defended. OLS recommends that schools adopt the following collection development procedures
If a complaint is made, the librarian /library teacher or principal will follow the following procedures:
In preparing your challenged materials guidelines, keep in mind the curriculum, age level of your students and the religious and cultural atmosphere of your community. Promote the idea of intellectual freedom as given in
However careful or circumspect you may be, expect to be challenged on materials by staff, students and parents. With students, some objections may come from misunderstandings or misreadings and may be resolved with individual or classroom discussion, providing a teachable moment. Be prepared with written guidelines and have a formal procedure to deal with any objections. The principal and administrators must be informed of any objections received.
In your policy, you should include a statement on intellectual freedom and why it is important to maintain. You may wish to include the text of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution—“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceable to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” and the Library Bill of Rights.
The principal should review the selection and objection rules with the teaching staff at least annually. No parent has the right to determine reading, viewing, or listening matter for students other than his or her own children.