NC School Board Changes Policy to Keep Challenged Books in Classrooms

Earlier this summer, a unanimous vote successfully kept Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner in Buncombe County, North Carolina, classrooms and initiated a necessary discussion about whether existing school policy about how to handle challenged books should be changed.

In a board meeting last Thursday, that conversation concluded, and it was decided that teachers could continue to use materials that have been challenged in their classrooms until a final decision regarding whether or not the book will be pulled could be made.

The call to update the policy came after the critically acclaimed book The Kite Runner came under attack by former board member and parent Lisa Baldwin for its inclusion in a 10th grade Honors English class. Objecting to the book’s depictions of “homosexuality and sexually explicit scenes,” Baldwin argued that the book was inappropriate for the class and should be pulled immediately. In response to the challenge, CBLDF joined the Kids’ Right to Read Project and other free speech advocates in submitting two formal letters defending the book. The book was discussed and approved by two review committees before the school board ultimately ruled that the book was appropriate for the honors class and was reinstated.

During the review period, The Kite Runner was pulled from classrooms, and students were give an alternative book to read. In the letters CBLDF signed, KRRP advocated for the continued use of the book pending review because the removal of books disrupts the classroom and students’ education. Buncombe County school board members were inspired to review and update the policy.

During the board meeting, Baldwin argued that a policy change didn’t need to occur and such a change would not be “necessary or fair to parents and students.” Despite Baldwin’s protests, the board voted to keep future challenged materials in classrooms until the point at which it is determined that they should be pulled (something we hope never happens!). The new policy reads: “No instructional materials shall be removed from the classroom or media center collection until the appeal procedure is completed.”

The policy change is a victory not only for free speech advocates but also for the education system in North Carolina. The policy change limits the disruption in the education process, and teachers will be able to continue to teach their students until a diplomatic decision can be reached.

Previous coverage of The Kite Runner challenge:

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Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!