Roanoke County School leaders approve new book review policy

Getting the community’s opinion on what books should be taken out of the library

Officials say the regulations are to keep children safe from inappropriate content.

ROANOKE, Va. – The Roanoke County School Board unanimously approved its new media review policy at Thursday night’s meeting.

Roanoke County Schools Superintendent Dr. Ken Nicely said the goal is to have more people review books.

“What we’re asking them to do is use a local lens and look at material ourselves,” Nicely said.

“We have an obligation to parents and students that in our public schools our students are not subjected to pornography or any other inappropriate content,” said school board member, Cheryl Facciani.

The change stemmed from last November when a parent challenged the school’s current regulations regarding the book When Aidan Became my Brother, which discusses transgender topics.

Leaders said when they looked at the original policy, they realized it was outdated with only one person with the power to decide which books can be in the school’s collection.

“There was clearly some outdated language, though said one man decision should be avoided and obviously that is antiquated language,” Nicely said.

School leaders say there is now more than one person who decides which books are suitable for students in the proposed regulations.

A group of librarians will meet after reading the books and decide which are suitable to be in the school’s library.

“We believe in collaboration, we think our librarians are experts, they are experts, they have master’s degrees and they are trained in the book selection process,” Nicely said.

During Thursday night’s meeting, a handful of parents and teachers voiced their concerns about the new policy.

“This proposed new policy however is pushing us towards a place for parents to prevent or obstruct all children from checking out books that they think are inappropriate for their children,” said one parent.

“How anyone in their right mind would think this is an appropriate use of professional staff’s time and tax payers dollars is beyond me,” said another.

Board Chairman David Linden says if the policy does become too much work for staff, the board will revisit it.

“It has been brought to our attention that this may be an arduous situation for the librarians and if that’s the case we will certainly consider any changes that would help ease that burden for them,” he said.

The president of the Roanoke County Education Association sent WSLS a statement that said, “Many students want newly released titles, and the proposed process will result in fewer new books that take longer to reach the shelves. The requirement to read and write a review for every single title added will have a detrimental impact on our librarians’ time while decreasing students’ access to new books.”

About the Authors:

Duke Carter returned to 10 News in January 2022.

Sydney joined the WSLS 10 News team in June 2021.