Pasco County Schools Will Clarify Review Procedure for Challenged Books

The Perks of Being a WallflowerTo clear up confusion that came to light during a recent challenge to Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, school district officials in Pasco County, Florida plan to clarify the reach of decisions made by school-level review committees. A review committee from Pasco Middle School had recently recommended banning the book at all levels throughout the district, despite the fact that no high school staff, faculty, parents, or students had the chance to give their input.

Although it seemed that superintendent Kurt Browning initially agreed with the review committee’s assessment, reportedly telling a middle school parent that he found the book “inappropriate for any student in the Pasco School system,” he ultimately reconsidered and decided the middle school committee’s recommendation should not apply district-wide. The book had been removed from two high schools where classroom sets were purchased for optional supplemental reading, but were restored last week.

As is fairly standard for school systems across the country, Pasco County’s challenge policy does say that the book in question will be reviewed by a district-level committee only if the complainant wishes to appeal the recommendation of the school-level committee, but administrators say it wasn’t clear that “a school-level action on a title does not apply to all schools in the county.”

The district also plans to make some changes to the way classroom materials are selected. The middle school challenge to Perks arose after a long-term substitute teacher assigned it to a 7th grade class without having read it herself. Even before that, though, the classroom set was purchased by “an assistant principal and learning design coach” who also had not read it, but selected it based on “a short publisher’s description that did not mention sex.” (It should be noted, however, that professional review sources do universally mention that the book addresses sex and sexuality, drugs, and underage drinking.)

The School Board will likely consider these policy updates along with several others before the start of the 2016-17 school year, said district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe.

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Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.