Kirkwood and Webster School Districts Remove Books from Library Shelves | Webster Kirkwood Times

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The graphic novel ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, along with two collections of feminist poetry by Canadian poet Rupi Kaur, have been removed from the libraries of the Webster Groves and Kirkwood school districts.


The Kirkwood School District has removed 14 books from its library collections in response to a Missouri Senate bill banning “explicit sexual materials” in schools.

More than a dozen parents showed up at Monday’s school board meeting to oppose the removal of the books.

Senate Bill 775, which took effect Aug. 28, defines sexually explicit material as any pictorial, three-dimensional, or visual representation showing masturbation, sexual intercourse, or abuse, including with emphasis on the depiction of postpubertal genitalia. The bill provides exceptions for significant works of art or science.

Based on legal advice pursuant to Senate Bill 775, the Kirkwood School District has removed the following books from its collections:

• “The Handmaid’s Tale” (graphic novel)

• “Milk and honey”

• “The sun and its flowers”

• “1984: The Graphic Novel”

• “American Gods 1: Shadows”

• “American Gods 2: My Ainsel”

• “Annie Leibovitz at work”

• “Crime and Punishment” (graphic novel)

• “Gender Danger: Survivors of Rape, Human Trafficking and Honor Killings”

• “Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation”

• “Himawari House”

• “The Girls of Ys”

• “The human body in action”

• “Women”

Under the state’s new law, anyone affiliated with a private or public school who provides what is considered sexually explicit material to a student could be subject to a misdemeanor, subject to up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.

Several Kirkwood parents spoke out against the removal of the 14 books at the school board meeting on Monday, September 26. Others praised and championed district librarians for choosing books for young readers.

Julie Sells, who has children at Tillman Elementary School, Nipher Middle School and Kirkwood High School, said her children had great experiences with the “incredible” Tillman Elementary School librarian. .

“It takes incredible dedication, which would explain why we’re one of the top five districts in the state. The five major districts in the state do not censor books,” she said. “We have educated, experienced and special librarians who take the time to cultivate and list books and get to know our children to encourage them to read more.”

Kirkwood School Board member Judy Moticka said some of the books that have been removed provide much-needed representation for students.

“The thought that we would take away a child’s ability to find themselves, to understand themselves, to feel safe, is wrong,” she said. “As a community, we need to do better. You can select a passage from the Bible and some would say it is pornographic and inappropriate.

“I understand we’re dealing with lawyers and I don’t want you to get in trouble, but some of these books that have been taken down are works of art,” Moticka continued. “Just because it’s a subject that makes you uncomfortable as an adult doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”

Kirkwood School District School Board President Jean Marie Andrews, however, said the decision only relates to explicit sexual material.

“That conversation was never about not wanting children to be represented in the books. It’s not about race, sexual orientation, gender identity or CRT (critical race theory) Andrews said “It’s about content in books that if a member of staff read it aloud to students it would be a violation of several policies… We can represent all students without sexualizing them.”

In addition to books that have been removed, Kirkwood parents can refuse any titles they do not want their child to borrow from school libraries.

The Kirkwood Process

During Monday’s meeting, Bryan Painter, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for the Kirkwood School District, touched on the district’s latest work in its book selection process, a conversation sparked in late 2021. During a school board meeting, parents confronted the board with a list of over 20 “inappropriate” books containing sexual content, drug use and other mature themes, asking how the books got into the school’s collection. library.

Painter said the district created a template for librarians to fill out when selecting books, including review highlights, curriculum ties and recommended age ranges. The template has so far been completed for approximately 80 books in the library’s collection.

“If at any time these books were to be challenged for reconsideration, we now have sufficient documentation to explain why they were considered in the first place,” he said.

Painter said the district would not label books with mature content because the move tended to bring more attention to such books in other districts.

In August, the district launched new forms for parents to remove their children from specific books. Parents can manually enter a book title or choose from a list of commonly challenged books. School-specific forms are available at www.kirkwoodschools.org/Page/10753. Parents can also access a list of books their child has borrowed from a school library.

Painter reminded parents that they can use Destiny Discover to explore books and other resources within a library collection at www.kirkwoodschools.org/destinydiscover.

Webster Groves School District Removes Books

In response to Senate Bill 775, the Webster Groves School District removed 11 books from its library collections, three of which are also on Kirkwood’s list. Books that Webster removed include:

• “The Handmaid’s Tale” (graphic novel)

• “Milk and honey”

• “The sun and its flowers”

• “Flame”

• “Queer Gender”

• “Breakfast of champions”

• “Guardians”

• “Home After Dark”

• “Zahra’s paradise”

• “Be gay, make comics”

• “Lighter than my shadow”

“While it is essential for us to comply with all applicable state laws to protect our educators from potential criminal charges, we will continue to strive to provide materials that reflect our student body and celebrate the diversity that exists. in the world around us,” said Derek Duncan. , district communications director.

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