Students suggest titles and topics for the librarian to purchase books. I took a photo of the small bag hanging on my desk where I collect suggestions year round. Note some of the most recent requests for Teen Pregnancy books and Sex-Ed books.
Big deal, you’re probably thinking. You teach in a suburban middle school and teens always request this information. So what?
How about being put in a situation where the principal tells you in front of the assistant principal to make sure you understand it that “no adult in the library will help students research STD’s”?
Why? Some of the website images that a classroom aide accessed at school showing STD’s were graphic and a parent complained. The aide was put on leave.
I had to explain to administration why I would allow a student to research treatment on STD’s after they told me they’d gotten it from someone else at school. The explanation was not enough. The administrator told me he was fully aware of the first amendment and what part of his order did I not understand. Also, I had to justify and provide a list of every title we had on STD’s so higher officials in the district could determine if they met the science health department’s policies on sexual education instructional guidelines.
I had to point out that the majority of the titles were purchased as part of an opening day collection in 2001 so some were dated, and they were there long before I arrived. I admitted I was currently researching new titles to add to the collection to meet the needs of our students. I was immediately interrogated as to who would make the decision as to the final purchase selection and I confirmed that my district coordinator reviewed each list.
Then my yearly evaluation was marked as less than satisfactory for my ability to select materials. What?! Someone is trying to say that I cannot evaluate a collection and select appropriate materials? May I beg to disagree? I believe I have far more “street cred” with librarians and teachers than that.
What would you do in this situation? Also, do you have additional titles you’d add to middle school collection for the topic of sexual education, diseases, and dating? I’m still interested even though I’m being reassigned to a classroom instead of the library next year.
UPDATED: Attached is my district policy IM 4 154 F amily Life and Sexuality Education Policy (2010-2011) (2) . As I read the policy, I cannot locate any specific information on school library materials, only materials for instruction in classrooms.