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Parental concern prompts review of library books

Tara Behbehani
Following parental complaints, multiple books will be reviewed due to their sexual content, according to Interim Head of School Coreen Hester. Over the past few years, numerous books have been restricted in schools across the U.S. due to their content, according to PEN America.

The Mellon Library has removed certain books from circulation following parental complaints, according to an email sent to the school community March 17 by Interim Head of School Coreen Hester.

Hester said parents complained about books with “sexual content.” In addition, Hester said these books have been temporarily removed from the library’s circulation but are not permanently removed from the collection, as they are in the process of being reviewed.

Lucy Ilyas (’26) said she was unsure what texts could warrant parental complaints. 

“My first thought was that I wonder what books parents are concerned about,” Ilyas said. “Personally, I’m not a fan of banning books, so I feel this is a drastic action to take.

Furthermore, Oliver Preiser (’23) said he has never encountered any objectionable content in the library.

“I’ve read a good majority of this library, and I’ve never really found any content that is objectionable or harmful to kids,” Preiser said. “I really do think that, overall, books are a learning resource that shouldn’t be taken away or hidden from public view because of their contents.”

Head Librarian Karen Field said, out of the around 25,000 books in the Mellon Library, only “a handful” of books are being reviewed.

Moreover, Field said previous parental complaints over book content in the library have emerged but have been quickly settled.

Personally, I’m not a fan of banning books, so I feel this is a drastic action to take.

— Lucy Ilyas ('26)

“Over the past 15 years, we’ve had a couple people who have had questions about books,” Field said. “But, we’ve resolved whatever issues we faced, or we’ve made sure that if a particular parent doesn’t want their child to read certain books, we make sure that they don’t.” 

In addition, Hester said any parents with concerns can easily resolve these issues by filling out a standardized form. 

“If a parent has an objection to a particular book, there’s always been a way that the parent can fill out a form to have their opinions considered and actually, in the end, deny their child’s access to any particular resource,” Hester said. 

However, Hester said the situation in question falls different from previous issues, as the form meant to resolve any complaints had been unintentionally removed from the school website.

“Our policies had inadvertently been taken off of the website, so parents didn’t even know how to resolve these issues unless they talked to a librarian,” Hester said. “They didn’t have easy electronic access to any kind of complaint policy or form.”

Despite school policies allowing parents to request a blocking of certain titles, Preiser said restricting access to books for any reason is unreasonable. 

“Omitting parts of books or the book as a whole is in itself morally objectionable,” Preiser said. “The concept that books should be banned, again, has been used to control content, despite the fact that books exist to be read.”

Books are a learning resource that shouldn’t be taken away or hidden from public view because of their contents.

— Oliver Preiser ('23)

To resolve future issues with concerns over book content, Field said the school is “updating the reconsideration procedure,” allowing parents to request reconsideration of particular resources. Hester said this process could involve a panel to decide whether or not content should be reintroduced into circulation.

Moreover, Hester said the adjustments to the library’s reconsideration procedure fit in with the school’s current task of restructuring its policies to accommodate Ofsted’s requirements. 

“We have just finished reviewing over 50 policies in the school as part of the Ofsted exercise,” Hester said. “So, actually, this situation fits right in with what we were doing as it’s just one more thing to review.” 

Overall, Ilyas said students should have personal decision-making in regard to which books they choose to read, regardless of the input of others. 

“People should be able to read what they want,” Ilyas said. “It’s their responsibility to monitor what they are reading and what they’re comfortable reading.”

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About the Contributors
Tara Behbehani
Tara Behbehani, Opinions Editor: Online
Tara Behbehani ('25) is the Opinions Editor: Online of The Standard. Behbehani’s passion for reading and writing urged her to take a journalism course. Aside from The Standard, Behbehani is on the debate team and co-leads the Interfaith and Dialogue club.
Oskar Doepke
Oskar Doepke, News Editor: Print
Oskar Doepke (’25) is the News Editor: Print for The Standard. Before moving to London, he joined his old school’s newspaper due to a love for writing and passion for politics, which he continued upon joining the Standard in Grade 10. Outside of the newsroom, Doepke leads the mock trial club, plays cello and enjoys social studies. 

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    ParentApr 6, 2023 at 8:13 pm

    It is appalling. Will book burning be next?