An Idaho high school has come under fire over inappropriate content its library made available to students, primarily Robert Kirkman’s Image Comics series The Walking Dead, Shoshone News Press reports.
The situation began when a former Wallace Jr./Sr. High School staff member noticed a student reading The Walking Dead and was “appalled” by its graphic imagery. Unlike the live-action AMC series, which airs on cable with a TV-MA rating and a content advisory notice, Kirkman’s comic book is less restrained with its violence, harsh language and sexual content.
Characters often meet harsher fates than in the television series, including a newborn Judith Grimes, who was brutally murdered in the books. Judith was spared such a fate in the show, which is often toned down when compared to the books flagged by parents.
When it was discovered students had access to many Walking Dead trade paperbacks, the teacher and a number of concerned parents took the issue to WHS Principal Chris Lund, who consulted Wallace School District policy 2510.
Regarding its selection of library materials, the objective of the District’s libraries is “to provide a wide range of materials on all appropriate levels of difficulty, with diversity of appeal, and the presentation of different points of view,” which states that wide variety of library materials “supports the District's basic principle that the school in a free society assists all students to develop their talents fully so that they become capable of contributing to the further good of that society.”
The policy notes the Superintendent is responsible for the selection of library materials, but “ultimate responsibility” rests with the Board.
“The Board, acting through the Superintendent, thereby delegates the authority for the selection of library materials to the principal in each of the schools,” the policy reads. “The principal further delegates that authority to the librarian in the school.”
Lund formed an 11-person committee, comprised of students, staff and parents, to “discuss and review” the books and vote for or against removal.
A final tally resulted in a 7-4 decision to keep the books in the school library, but parental backlash saw this vote overruled. Superintendent Dr. Bob Ranells ultimately made the executive decision to pull The Walking Dead from shelves as they contained content that was “less than desirable in a scholastic environment.”
The books were given to the Wallace Public Library, which is part of an Interlibrary Loan Network that gives access to roughly 500,000 books over the 1,200 books available in the WHS library. Lund notes the Interlibrary Loan Network is a benefit for rural children who now have access to research materials they otherwise would not obtain, but the network gives access to content that may not be permissible by the school.
Ranells said the District has since participated in discussions surrounding the implementation of a two-library card system. “One card may only allow students access to books in the WHS library and the other allows them to use the Interlibrary loan service,” Ranells said. “I think that would be a pretty good compromise.”
As the concept awaits review by the Wallace School Board, Ranells believes parents should ultimately decide what content is available to their children.0comments
“We want parents to have conversations with their children about these things at their dinner table,” Ranells said. “We don’t want to make these decisions for you or for your children.”
The Walking Dead will remain available for checkout through the loan network, but Wallace High School will request the books not be brought on school grounds.