The Marietta school board Tuesday evening approved a staff directive to review the books in its school libraries and remove works with sexually explicit material that they believe are inappropriate for students.
The move came after a Marietta parent made a complaint about two books that were recently removed by the Cobb County School District for having “highly inappropriate, sexually explicit content.” One of the books is “Flamer” by Mike Curato, a graphic novel set in a 1995 summer camp about a boy who is bullied for appearing gay. The other book is “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews, which is about two high school boys who become friends with a girl who is dying of cancer. Marietta officials said they were unsure how long the two books were in its district.
The directive is aimed in part at outlining the complaint and appeal process. In Marietta, the school principal or his or her designee determines whether student access to the material that is the subject of the complaint should be removed or restricted.
Marietta administrators asked for patience with the district’s review, noting that there are over 20,000 books in its largest library with some titles dating back as far as the 1970s. Materials used for sex education courses will not be included in the review, administrators said in a document outlining the plan.
Any materials that will be removed will be reported during future school board meetings, an amendment that was agreed upon by the school board Tuesday. The board also agreed to several other amendments, such as gathering input from the community as the directive is implemented.
About three dozen parents and students crowded the boardroom Tuesday, many holding signs pleading with the board not to ban any books. Board members and administrators stressed the directive is not a ban.
Board members spoke frequently about avoiding fractious battles that have engulfed other school districts locally and nationwide over books, particularly those considered classics, that have been removed from school libraries.
“It’s a polarizing topic,” school board Chairwoman Kerry Minervini told reporters after the vote.
The board voted against a request from board member A.B. Almy to delay Tuesday’s decision, to give them more time to review the amendments to the directive and gather more community support for the plan. The vote against the delay drew a mix of applause and boos from the audience.
Board members said they welcome an ongoing community debate about the review.
“I look forward to what’s next, even if it’s hard and difficult,” Angela Orange told the audience.