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Updates to media material policy approved

Updates to media material policy approved

Morganton, NC – Monday, Feb. 5, 2024

The Burke County Board of Education has adopted updates to policies and procedures on how school library and supplementary materials are selected and made available to students, how parents can review the material and the process for handling concerns about the material. The updates came during Monday’s regular board meeting and are the result of board member, parent, community and staff input as well as input from various interest groups.

Board of Education Chair Seth P. Hunt Jr. said, “The Burke County Board of Education, having begun work over two years ago, has been very proactive in this matter, listening to the stakeholders and balancing the law with the safety of students and the rights of parents. This really is a groundbreaking policy and the first of its kind in the state. Other districts are wrestling with similar policies and procedures and are now looking to us as an example. I am proud of how the different voices came together to do what is right for our students and keep their best interest at the forefront.”  

Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Swan said, “As educators, we want to ensure that our students have the best resources available that support their instructional journey. We want this material to interest them and also be age appropriate and representative of individual backgrounds and learning styles. We also want parents to feel comfortable with the process of reviewing and raising concerns about the material, should they feel the need.”

Policy 3200 “Selection of Instructional and Supplementary Materials” states the board’s desire to provide instructional materials that will enrich and support curriculum and enhance student learning. This involves third party materials such as those made available to students during book fairs. Parents will be notified of the opportunity for their child to purchase materials during such events. 

When it comes to selecting and reviewing supplementary materials, the policy states that staff members are to use their professional judgment to select materials that support the development of literacy skills and the standard course of study. School level staff members are to involve school media and technology advisory committees to use board policy to guide the selection of supplementary materials.

The policy updates procedures for parents and community members to challenge textbooks and instructional material. 

  • The policy reads, “The Board of Education believes that parents and professional educators have unique and complimenting roles to play in the educational development of students. Thus, parents have a right to object to instructional materials and such challenges will be addressed pursuant to policy 3210, Parental Inspection of and Objection to Educational Materials. In addition, based upon a complaint or objection from a non-parent who is a tax-paying resident of Burke County, the Superintendent or designee shall respond to the concern and may elect to conduct an administrative review on a case-by-case basis in accordance with this policy. If an educational material is challenged based in part on an asserted violation of State criminal law, the Superintendent or designee shall consult with law enforcement as part of any administrative review.”

Policy 3200-R refers to supplementary materials and parent involvement in the procedure. It points out the primary objective of media centers, media coordinators responsibilities, the role parents play in their children’s education journeys and avenues for challenging material. For additional clarity, the revised procedure adds an endnote to define the legal test for obscenity as established by the United States Supreme Court. 

Policy 3210 deals with “Parental Inspection of and Objection to Educational Materials.” The updates acknowledge that parents have a right to review all records of materials borrowed by their child from the school media center. Parents also may review school library collections on-line or at the school following advance notice to the principal. That process provides an opportunity for parental input in the selection of materials. Additionally, before students are permitted access to supplementary materials that are categorized as 14+, parents must give explicit written electronic permission, regardless of the student's age.

Once a complaint is filed, the policy update outlines the steps the principal will take in notifying the media coordinator and district media personnel. A district media advisory committee will be formed and the committee’s decision will apply to all schools serving the same grade span. Any committee decision to retain material stands for three years, and decisions to remove material stands indefinitely, subject only to future action by the Board of Education. Appeals can be made to the superintendent and ultimately to the board.

Dr. Swan said, “I want to personally thank the parents and citizens of this county as well as our dedicated professional educators and our board for supporting our district in its efforts to provide the best materials to our students. Because of you, these policies and procedures on selecting, reviewing and questioning materials have been made better and will greatly benefit our students.”