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School board asked to ban books

Manawa librarian says ‘books unite us, censorship divides us’

By Holly Neumann

Following a written complaint by Stacey Trinrud, the Manawa School District is now reviewing the book Looking for Alaska by John Green, which can be found in the middle/high school library.

Trinrud told the district’s Book Review Committee Nov. 16 that the book contains sexually explicit encounters in detail, bad language and normalizes dishonesty, hazing, underage drinking and smoking.

Looking for Alaska is available for students ages 11–18.

“Remember that this is no longer just a high school library,” Trinrud said. “This should have been taken into account when including the younger children. When the dynamics of this building changed, this district also needed to make changes to ensure the safety of the new younger children that are now entering this library.”

Trinrud said the book’s educational value is outweighed by the fact that it is filled with behaviors that do not align with the district’s philosophy and goals for the children.

“Why not be exemplary?” she asked. “We don’t have to follow the normal just because other schools are doing it. We can remove the junk. We have little kids in that school now and that was not taken into consideration. The world is changed by your example and not your opinion and that’s a fact.”

Library’s mission

District Library Media Specialist Jen Krueger also spoke about Looking for Alaska.

“The purpose of my presentation is to discuss intellectual freedoms as it pertains to our library materials in our library services,” she said.

She noted the library mission statement that reads: “The School District of Manawa Libraries are committed to building healthy relationships, facilitating personal learning through the consumption and creation of knowledge in a safe environment of respect and responsibility.”

“With this as our mission, we envision that our students will obtain the knowledge and skills to become accomplished readers, independent learners, critical thinkers, creative problem solvers and informed citizens,” Krueger said.

She said there are policies in place that support the mission.

Policy 2521 states that the school board does not discriminate on the basis of any characteristic protected under state and federal laws, including but not limited to race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, pregnancy, parental status, marital status, sex or physical, mental, emotional or learning disability in its selection of instructional materials and equipment.

Krueger also referenced Wisconsin Statute Administrative Code, which reads each school district board shall provide library facilities with the school building and make available to all pupils a current, balanced collection of books, basic reference materials, texts, periodicals and audiovisual materials which depict an accurate and unbiased way the cultural diversity and pluralistic nature of American society.

“A pluralistic society is a diverse one where the people in it believe all different kinds of things and tolerate each other’s beliefs, even when they do not match their own,” Krueger said.

Krueger closed in saying that books unite us, censorship divides us.

“It is an ever-changing world,” she said. “It is important that books serve as mirrors, windows and doors for our children. Students need to see themselves in the books they read. They also need to see others that are unlike them, which are the windows. Finally, it is important that books provide a means for children to journey into worlds and experience all it has to offer. That is the doors.”

Committee members will read the book and decide whether it should be removed from the library’s circulation or remain as an option for students.

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