Lander school board selects new book, material complaint policy

    (Lander, WY) – It was a packed room at the Fremont County School District #1 Board Meeting Tuesday night as they voted on implementing one of two revised IJLA policies.

    The new policy updates how the district approaches complaints about books and other instructional materials.

    In a four to three vote, draft one of the two policies was approved with amendments. Voting against draft one were Aileen Brew, Kathy Hitt and Karen Harms.


    Draft One

    Author of draft one and board vice-chair Scott Jensen reiterated that his approach was for building trust and keeping the process transparent.

    “… So, as I’ve said before, my intent was to create a policy that’s more friendly to stakeholder input. I think that we need to create an environment where we’re building trust. And to do that, we have to welcome input and not label parents that come forward with concerns as book banners or people that just want to censor stuff, both of which are just inflammatory and not appropriate to what we’re discussing here. Also, to build trust between stakeholders in our school district, we need transparency, we need accountability, and our old policy lacked the transparency. …”

    Draft one begins with a discussion about the material in question between a stakeholder (parent, guardian, or community member) and the school staffer (librarian, teacher, building principal, etc.) responsible for the resource.

    If the school staffer finds that the material should not be in use within the district, they can remove the material and then document their reasonings on the district’s website. If they do not come to an agreement, the stakeholder can then submit a formal complaint to the superintendent, who then alerts the school board to the issue.


    The superintendent or the superintendent’s designee (building principal) follows the same review and documentation process. If an agreement cannot be reached at that level, then it is brought before the school board to review.

    The full details of draft one can be reviewed here.

    Board Debate

    Board member Aileen Brew and author of draft two, shared her agreement with a need for greater transparency, but disagreed on the community values section.


    “I believe that if we start to remove books based on their alignment with the community’s values, that we again stand to not represent all the people in the room, (and) the 1,800 students that we serve,” she said.

    It was also discussed whether a review committee, a key component to draft two, was necessary to prevent the school staffer from feeling overpowered or persuaded by the stakeholder bringing the complaint.

    “We should empower our staff to use their judgment and make decisions,” Jensen noted.


    Brew is concerned that without a review committee, there could be censorship.

    “I think it’s important to acknowledge that if someone comes in and they’re expressing hostility to an idea that’s in the book or they disagree with a belief that’s in a book, that is censorship,” Brew explained. “And the removal of that would be a censoring action, you know, as defined in the American Library Association materials. So I think we need to be crystal clear about that, that there is the potential for that. And that’s where a review committee would be a very good and measured response.

    Jensen pushed back, questioning why it’s only censorship if a stakeholder brings the complaint forward, but a librarian can discard books they do not believe should be in circulation.

    Board chair Jared Kail viewed the review committee as unnecessary because the stakeholder would just appeal the committee’s decision and take it up with the board anyway.

    “It seems to me that the committee is just a roadblock that wastes time,” Kail said.

    Public comment

    Numerous community members and parents spoke during the public comment portion of the evening. Below is a summarization of the comments said during that portion of the meeting.

    • Cannot deliver people from evil, but let’s not provide it either.
    • Comments about what books people are reading are important for us to understand the people who are not like us.
    • Parents’ choice extends only to their own children. There are some decent things to be taught in schools, like basic reproduction, but when it comes to sexuality, this is an innocence that is being lost due to discussions about these topics in public schools where it has no place.
    • Students should be allowed to learn about different identities and different cultures.
    • This discussion that we’re having is not more important than the actual safety of children in this community.
    • Not everyone has parents who can afford to buy them books, or who have the capability or the time to buy themselves books, and that’s where libraries play a vital role.
    • Develop a policy that takes pornography out of the school. It is doing a detriment to our students.
    • You are taking it upon yourself to decide what is best for the rest of us. And in doing so, you are taking democracy from us, leaving us governed by a small group of small-minded people who are afraid of books.
    • If you want a good process, start with a teacher or the librarian. That’s where you make the connections to community with parents. And that’s where you have the most information.
    • Every single child in the high school, I’m willing to bet, has a smartphone. And what do they have on that smartphone? They have Google. And what is Google? Accessibility and information. So that’s just as accessible as a book.
    • I’m hopeful that we make the bravest choice.
    • Early exposure to sexually explicit material and behavior leads young people into personal and socially destructive relationships and habits. If it’s going to cause harm, it should not be available.
    • I don’t think you guys have the right to tell my child what books she can read. I think you should trust parents to be able to make that decision for themselves.
    • Whatever we create has got to deal with a lot of different values.
    • Agree with Mr. Jensen on this point that this board is elected by our community, and how more unbiased than by having an election with our community that selects who represents our families. There is no way for us to actually opt out of that material being around our children who would have access to it. Even if they don’t bring it home or they don’t check it out, they still have that access.
    • I think the real process that needs to happen here is once you make this decision, then you need to go into that amendment and then you need to go into that compromise.
    • Having a committee is a great idea for several reasons.
    • I like the idea of having people that were elected to represent us make these decisions.
    • Books that educate students about gender and sexual things, those things can be done at home privately.
    • I want to be able to know that when I raise a complaint, if it’s not handled at the school, I can come here and have everyone in this audience here hear me. I can hear it out in public record and I can have it available for everyone else.
    • We do not need to have a committee that people have not voted for, that we don’t know who the people are making our decisions for us. That’s what the school board is for.
    • Over the years I’ve seen some lack of transparency on this board. Some not with folks that are here some are. As leaders and as elected officials, you should be leading the way on how you follow the policy. If there’s a policy for reviewing a book, you should be doing that. If you want to be transparent, hold yourselves to that standard. That highest standard.

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