Wilson school board rescinds vote to ban controversial book

A vote to ban a book from the Wilson County Schools reading list was rescinded at Friday’s board meeting.
Jun 3, 2014

A vote to ban a book from the Wilson County Schools reading list was rescinded at Friday’s board meeting.

The book in question, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time,” was banned from the reading list at the board’s May 5 meeting and was removed from the possession of students soon after. However, the books were given back to students on the advice of school board attorney Mike Jennings due to a possible conflict with a board policy.

“The word ban was a bad choice of words. I wanted it removed from the reading list, but instead we go out and start removing books from libraries and kids arms and they couldn’t do reports. That was not the intent of that,” said board member Wayne McNeese, who made the original motion.

“This particular book that we’re talking about; I certainly don’t believe in censorship, but I believe that we could find a book where the author could express themselves and get their point across in another way than what this particular author did,” board member Larry Tomlinson said. Tomlinson was not present at the meeting when the original vote was taken.

“I applaud Wayne for making that motion that he did that night. If we were wrong and violated some of our policies, we need to correct that.”

At Friday’s meeting, Interim Director of Schools Mary Ann Sparks explained a revision to the opt out policy provided to parents each school year.

“The last board meeting we talked about the selection of books for high school reading lists. In the past our schools have had a plan for parents to opt out of a reading selection if they did not think it was appropriate for their children,” she said.

“The instructional supervisors and I looked at what we are doing now and we tried to tweak that to what we think will help answer all those questions.”

A motion made by board member Wayne McNeese to ban the book from any county school’s reading list passed at the May 5 meeting.

Board Chair Don Weathers asked to rescind the previous motion in light of the new policy recommended by Sparks.

“We need to rescind that board action that we took and then use these steps to ensure the board that the parent will have notification when objectionable materials are included in the reading list. That there is a wide enough range of books in the preferred or mandatory reading lists to give students an option to take other than a book that would have objectionable material and that teachers would be working within those confines or guidelines and not discriminate or have anything other than the best intentions in dealing with that situation,” he said

McNeese asked why there was a need to rescind a motion that “is not being followed.”

“What’s the point?” McNeese asked.

Sparks clarified that when the motion was made there was no timeline for implementation given.

“When you made the motion, there wasn’t a timeline put on it. You didn’t say if it was for this year or next year.”

Weathers, who voted in the affirmative to ban the book at the May 5 meeting, said “At this point I would make the motion to rescind that vote with the provision that this new procedure is followed to protect both parents, students and the school system from any of these objectionable materials being mandatory when the parents don’t want it.

The vote to rescind the previous action passed unanimously.

Other items voted on by the board included:

- Approval of the renewal of the driver’s education agreement for the 2014-15 school year passed unanimously.

- Approval of the No Child Left Behind federal projects passed unanimously.

- Approval of the Carl Perkins Plan for CTE passed unanimously.

- Deferral of medical and dental insurance agreements as well as property and casualty insurance agreements was approved unanimously.

- Approval of a life insurance agreement passed unanimously.

- Approval of a clinic agreement with Care Here passed 3-2 with Tomlinson and Bill Robinson voting no.

- Approval of the relocation of a portable at Watertown High School to the Central Office for additional office space passed 4-1 with McNeese voting no.

- Approval of a general purpose school fund budget amendment passed unanimously.

- Approval of a federal projects budget amendment passed unanimously.

- Approval of a bid for the construction of the addition at Carroll-Oakland Elementary passed unanimously.

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