Following another book removal, Lexington 5 school board members weigh in on policy

Posted 12/27/23

Lexington-Richland School District 5 continues to be in the spotlight regarding district reading materials, this time removing an entire series from school libraries.

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Following another book removal, Lexington 5 school board members weigh in on policy


Lexington-Richland School District 5 continues to be in the spotlight regarding district reading materials, this time removing an entire series from school libraries.

During their regular Dec. 11 board meeting, district trustees were set to vote on keeping or removing “A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sara J. Maas from school libraries. The board voted 5-2 to remove the book and its entire series from libraries, going against the recommendation from the district committee tasked with arbitrating such situations.

Board member Kimberly Snipes was one of the two dissenting votes to keep the book in schools, expressing, both during the meeting and to the Chronicle, that she trusts the committee's judgment.

The book in question was challenged by Karena Phelps in September, who objected to the sexually explicit portions of the book and language she said “can’t be used verbally by students or work on clothing in the school.”

At the time of the challenge, Phelps had only read excerpts of the book, saying, “I do not read pornographic material.” She claimed she listened to the audiobook by the time of the December meeting.

“If somebody hasn’t read the book, I don’t know that I think that it is fair that they are able to ask us to remove it because I just don’t feel they would have a full picture on what the book is actually about,” Snipes said when asked about people “cherry picking” excerpts they don’t like and challenging a book in its entirety.

The committee, consisting of supervisors, librarians, teachers and other staff, were required to read the book, ultimately coming to the consensus that the book is acceptable and appropriate for the district’s high school libraries and should return to circulation immediately.

The board reached a different view on the book, though, ultimately deeming it inappropriate for schools and removing the entirety of the series from libraries – “A Court of Mist and Fury,” “A Court of Thorns and Roses,” “A Court of Wings and Run,” “A Court of Frost and Starlight” and “A Court of Silver Flames.”

Both Snipes and Board Member Catherine Huddle, who voted for the removal, said they believe that there will be no negative ramifications from removing the series. Huddle added that she hopes there are positive ramifications in that the contents of books are carefully examined before they are selected for school libraries, Snipes shared that the ramifications will be no different than if it was just one book.

“It was disheartening that I had to vote against the entire series because I hadn't even read it or knew anything about it,” Snipes said. “But if we're not in violation of the policy, then, you know, like it or not. I realized that I just have to respect the decision that was made.”

During the meeting, a common argument as to why the book should be removed from schools is that if students wished to do so they can get the book from off-campus locations like Barnes and Noble or Books-A-Million. When asked by the Chronicle if she believes that removing books from libraries is an effective method for protecting children from inappropriate material, Snipes shared a different sentiment than her fellow board members.

“I don't think it's effective. Yeah, it was in another library, but you can still access it other places,” Snipes said.”When you say they don't have access to a book in a library, it does send a message and I think that more people are interested in the book now than they would have been if this wouldn't have been a debate to begin with.”

Snipes added that in her experience if you are told you can’t access a certain item or experience that it will make people more likely to want to engage with it.

Huddle shared an opposing view from Snipes, offering that public schools use tax money to purchase books and other materials that should provide educational benefit.

“Parents trust schools to supply age-appropriate materials,” Huddle told the Chronicle. “If a parent wants, on their own, to buy a book for their child or take them to the public library where they are aware of and have the opportunity to review what their child is reading, that is their prerogative.”

Snipes told the Chronicle that though she is against book bannings, she doesn’t believe that every book should be allowed in schools. She additionally emphasized that she trusts the process.

“I trust that if our librarians and the chain of command that kind of decides what books are going to be on the shelves, have done their job, then I trust that they've done their jobs,” Snipes said. “There may be books that I don't want my kids to read. I have four children but it doesn't mean that I get to decide which books your child can read.”

She told the Chronicle that she wants teachers to feel like they are supported, like the board has their back.

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