WALLACE — Wallace Jr./Sr. High School has recently come under fire by a few concerned citizens over some of the content within the school’s library.
The situation began toward the end of the 2018-2019 school year when a former staff member noticed one of his students reading what appeared to be a simple comic-book, but upon closer inspection, was appalled by what he saw as graphic imagery.
The comic book in question, “The Walking Dead,” is not just a popular television show, but in fact is based off source material that was originally released in graphic novel (comic book) form.
The biggest difference is that while the TV show boasted a TV-14 rating, the graphic novels are rated for a much older audience.
The books contain graphic language, violence and sexually explicit content, which was the main concern for the teacher, as well as a local group of parents.
Upon discovering the students’ access to many of the books in the series in the high school library, the teacher took his concern to WHS Principal Chris Lund, who looked to his policy and procedures guide to handle the situation.
According to Wallace School District policy 2510:
Selection of Library Materials
The District has libraries in every school with the primary objective of implementing and supporting the educational program in the schools. It is the objective of these libraries to provide a wide range of materials on all appropriate levels of difficulty, with diversity of appeal, and the presentation of different points of view.
The provision of a wide variety of library materials at all reading levels supports the District's basic principle that the school in a free society assists all students to develop their talents fully so that they become capable of contributing to the further good of that society.
In support of these objectives, the Board reaffirms the principles of intellectual freedom inherent in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and expressed in the School Library Bill of Rights, endorsed by the American Association of School Librarians in 1969.
Although the Superintendent is responsible for the selection of library materials, ultimate responsibility for the selection of library materials rests with the Board.
The Board, acting through the Superintendent, thereby delegates the authority for the selection of library materials to the principal in each of the schools. The principal further delegates that authority to the librarian in the school.
Lund then formed a committee of 11 people, comprised of students, staff and parents to discuss and review the books. Afterward, they would vote on whether to keep them in the school or remove them.
The final vote resulted in a 7-4 decision in favor of keeping the books in the library.
Due to parental push back to the vote though, the executive decision was made by WSD superintendent Dr. Bob Ranells to remove the books from the shelves, as they did contain content that was less than desirable in a scholastic environment.
With the decision made, the school now faces some interesting challenges.
The books were removed from the school library and given to the Wallace Public Library, which brought up another potential issue that they plan to monitor.
The Wallace School District is a part of the Interlibrary Loan Network that gives kids access to roughly 500,000 books as opposed to 1,200 books in the WHS library.
“For a rural school to have access to this is such a benefit,” Lund said. “It allows to not be challenged by geography. It is super important for our kids, because it gives them access to research materials that they otherwise would go without.”
However, access to the network does allow kids to select from materials that aren’t always within the guidelines of what is and isn’t preferred content inside the walls of a school.
“How do we prevent these types of issues in the future?” Ranells asked. “We have discussed the idea of implementing a two-library card system where one card may only allow students access to books in the WHS library and the other allows them to use the Interlibrary loan service. I think that would be a pretty good compromise.”
That concept will need to pass the Wallace School Board before it becomes actual policy.
Ranells ultimately believes that the decision should remain with the parents to determine what content their children take in.
“We want parents to have conversations with their children about these things at their dinner table,” Ranells said. “We don’t want to make these decisions for you or for your children.”
As for “The Walking Dead” books, while they will still be available for checkout through the Interlibrary Loan Network, the school will be requesting that they not be brought on school grounds.