The Carroll Community School District (CCSD) Board of Education narrowly approved a recommendation from a board-appointed material reconsideration committee to keep a book that had collected complaints from stakeholders concerned about its perceived graphic content. That committee met earlier this month to discuss and review “Sold” by Patricia McCormick, a fiction novel based on human trafficking stories from India. Superintendent Dr. Casey Berlau says the committee voted 7-1 to keep the book available.
In their recommendation letter, committee members write, “The rationale for keeping the book included looking at the content of the material which was determined to be age appropriate as students have access to the same, if not worse, materials through the use of their phone and other internet devices.” They also note the book has only been checked out 29 times from the Carroll High School Library since 2007 and found its portrayal of an already heavy subject matter educationally appropriate. Board member Karen Friedlein questions how the district can allow this material in the library when a similar search on a library computer would lead to a student losing computer access.
Berlau cautioned the board from delving too deeply into policy discussions, as it could be considered a violation of open meetings law, but he did indicate this is an area actively being reviewed by the policy and curriculum committees. A motion to approve the reconsideration committee’s recommendation passed on a narrow 3-2 margin, with Friedlein and Duane Horsley recording the nay votes. Later in the meeting, the board returned to the policy discussion, specifically the 600 series, which covers instructional materials selection. One of those policies would allow parents to identify material in the media center they do not want their children to access. Horsley says it is unrealistic to ask parents to vet every book in the library.
“Sold” did appear in one sophomore-level English course that parents did need to sign off on the syllabus, but it included no indication containing potentially objectionable materials in the notice. Board President Cindy Johnson says it only takes a few seconds to check if a book may be controversial.
Berlau adds that changes to state law last year require districts to provide information on the school’s website concerning certain types of books, and work is already underway to meet those requirements by the 2025 deadline. However, he says it takes a significant amount of time. The board did reach a consensus on allowing parents to specify books they do not wish their child to read, and that policy was approved. School officials note they may return to these policies for additional revisions at future meetings.