On Wednesday June 8th, the Kent School District held a hearing on an appeal for a banned book. Many residents joined in person and submitted comments online. Due to technical issues with one of the board members who joined remotely, the board unanimously agreed to table the discussion to the next meeting so all board members could be present to vote.
The book, Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by Lev A.C. Rosen, was allegedly reported by a student at Cedar Heights Middle School in December of 2021 and then removed by the principal. The school librarian challenged the principal’s decision which went up to the KSD Instructional Materials Committee (IMC), who agreed with the principal’s decision. The school librarian again appealed the IMC decision to the school board where its final decision is to be made.
Scores of residents were present at the meeting, so much so that even the overflow room was packed. Nearby residents also submitted comments online on the matter. While a handful of the comments were in opposition to the appeal (or in support of the ban), an overwhelming majority were in favor of the appeal (or against the ban).
After 10pm, the board began to hear from the appellant, the school librarian, as well as the challenger to the appeal, a resident. The appellant argued that library books are important, that diversity and representation in library books is important, and that his duty as a librarian is to provide books for all his audience not just an “average” reader. In the challenge to the appeal, the challenger stated this book was inappropriate and that this book removal was appropriate censorship, not a ban, and the title should not be available in middle school libraries. The challenger also spent a portion of their time commenting on the character of the appellant, to what I could only describe as implying students (allegedly) believe the librarian is creepy for suggesting they have privacy rights, which felt very close to the widespread accusations taking place claiming LGBTQ individuals are “groomers”.
The KSD Vice President, Joe Bento, then moved to reject the decision from the IMC (in support of the appeal against the book ban). He commented that he felt the process was not correctly followed and that the findings applied to curriculum materials but not recreational materials such as library books. Tim Clark commented that “the matter at hand is if this book is appropriate for this age group” suggesting he would vote against the motion, in favor of the IMC decision. Then it was brought to the attention of the board that the remote board member was unable to hear the discussion and would abstain from a vote, which led to board member Michele Bettinger, proposing a motion to table the discussion to the next meeting for all members to be present and able to vote. This motion was unanimously passed by the board.
It is expected the discussion and vote will continue again on June 22nd, the next regularly scheduled board meeting.