HP Stalls Vote on Policy Amendments

Last night’s Highland Park ISD board of trustees meeting reviewed more proposed changes to EFA (LOCAL) and literature selections before yet another packed house. Though some amendments had been proposed at the Dec. 9 meeting and the board had discussed bringing them to a vote at the January meeting, no action was taken.

Rather, many parents continued to voice their opinions on the possible changes — especially in light of the fact that The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David K. Shipler (which was on the original list of suspended books) has once again been petitioned by a parent.

But not before superintendent Dawson Orr and HPHS principal Walter Kelly outlined possible changes:

  • EFA (LOCAL) dictates that texts must be “evaluated as a whole and selected for their strengths rather than rejected for their weaknesses,” but that the texts “shall not contain excessive or gratuitous explicit sexuality or excessive or gratuitous graphic violence.”
  • Should multiple complaints be filed against a given text, only the first petition will be considered for formal review/objection.
  • The reconsideration committee shall include junior or senior students who had previously been taught the material.
  • If a book is deemed unacceptable for use by the reconsideration committee, parents of students in the affected class have the same rights to appeal as the original challengers.
  • The principal or a designee will review the EFA (LOCAL) policies with teaching staff each year.

Kelly then reviewed a new process for annual literature selection: teachers will fill out recommendation forms and turn them over to their grade-level team, who would then present them to the English department as a whole. The department then presents them to the HPHS literature review committee, which then has the option to accept or reject texts, or send them to a community feedback group.

The literature review committee will be comprised of: the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction (or designee); the principal (or designee); the English department chair (or designee); and the English faculty member who proposed the work.

If a text does reach the community feedback stage, a teacher-led committee of HPHS parents would review the work through a questionnaire and share feedback with the literature review committee.

This would all take place beginning in January for the preceding school year, so that book lists would be finalized by June. Once the school year starts, parents would have until September to grant approval for their child to read the books. Feedback would then be given to the school board in October.

Drafts of relevant forms that would be used by teachers and committee members were also included for attendee’s review, many of whom spoke up.

“The selection process needs to be taken out of the hands of the individuals who want to uphold the current status quo,” said HP parent Tavia Hunt, who served on the reconsideration committee for The Art of Racing of the Rain.

But parents on both sides of the argument expressed their concerns.

“Parent involvement must bring value to the education process,” Natalie Davis said.

Above all, many expressed fatigue regarding the discussion that has carried on since September.

“I would not think to pose my viewpoints on others,” Mohler Carlson said. “I’m sorry this debacle has taken up so much time. I’m sorry we’re having to still talk about this.”

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