Residents in a Twin Cities suburb are voicing concerns about the vulgar language and sexually explicit content in school library books.
During the open forum portion of the Eastern Carver County School Board meeting in Chaska Monday evening, community members requested more transparency and input about the books that children and teenagers in the district can get their hands on.
One resident, Svetlana Kolesnikova, shared words and passages from four books available in the district — books she claims are cataloged in the public library under the adult section.
Scenes in the selected books use ample profanity and depict alcohol and drug use, sexual activity, and nudity, often with explicit language and images.
One of the books Kolesnikova drew attention to, “Monday’s Not Coming” by Tiffany Jackson, was featured on Publisher’s Weekly’s “Anti-Racist Children’s and YA Reading List.”
Another book, “Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins, is a New York Times bestseller about “five troubled teenagers [falling] into prostitution as they search for freedom, safety, community, family, and love.” And Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” is about a lesbian who finds out weeks before her father’s death that he was gay.
“This is just [the] tip of the sword [of] what’s in our libraries,” Kolesnikova said. “What kind of a parent in [their] right mind would want their … 14-year-old child [to] read this book, no matter what the child’s identity is, [and expect] anything good to come out of it?”
“What purpose does this serve in our school education, in educating our children? Are they age-appropriate? Maybe we should use the FCC guidelines to pick the books for the library [and] in the classroom,” she added.
Another Carver County resident and mother of five children, Jen Hadin, called out the school board for allegedly trying to shut out residents from “discussions related to books chosen by our educators.”
Hadin also took umbrage with an unnamed graphic novel available in the district that allegedly depicts a “rape scene of a 9-year-old girl by an adult man,” along with “pages of illustrated naked bodies and sex acts of every kind.”
“Even my teens were shocked to see this book in their school library, and it was there because one of our educators ordered it and shelved it,” she continued. “Within seconds of an internet search checking into this book, I saw that on Target.com the very first detail shared about this book is that it was recommended for ages 22 and up.”
The board voted Monday night to approve revisions to its policy for selecting library and media materials. Under the changes, library records will indicate if parents have asked for their children to not be exposed to certain books or genres.
“I believe this is a best practice that has been inside our district. Putting it in the policy creates a legacy of that commitment. I also believe this best practice is why we have only had four challenges in this district in the past two decades,” said Assistant Superintendent Erin Rathke.
The policy also outlines the process for filing complaints about specific library books. One board member, Joe Scott, voted against the policy because he was concerned that it didn’t do enough to include parents and taxpayers in the discussion.