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Cabarrus County Schools debate who gets to initiate book removals

For weeks now, a school board committee and the district lawyer have worked to change the current policy.

CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. — There’s controversy in Cabarrus County Schools about who gets to remove a book in the district. 

For weeks now, a school board committee and the district lawyer have worked to make board-recommended changes to the current policy. Currently, parents, students, and staff in the district can start the process to get a book removed. 

RELATED: Cabarrus County school board considering new policy to remove controversial books from libraries

The book “Looking for Alaska” by John Green was the catalyst for some Cabarrus County Parents petitioning for the district's book removal policy to change. 

“This has got to be the stupidest thing ever," Brandon Matthews, a Cabarrus County parent, said at Monday's board meeting. "Make me understand why a kid needs to learn how to get oral sex?"

The author of the book has previously said parents are taking some scenes in the book out of context. 

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Nonetheless, someone wanted to start the process to ban the book but wanted to do so anonymously. That move drew criticism during the literature and supplemental material committee meeting. 

“I definitely don't want this policy to be anonymous," Carolyn Carpenter, a Cabarrus County Schools Board of Education member and former member of the committee, said. "I think if somebody wants something done, they should be willing to put their name, put their money where their mouth is." 

Carpenter and board member Laura Blackwell were both removed from the committee by board chair Holly Grimsley. 

Some community members have accused board members on the committee of tainting the process.

The committee is comprised of media specialists, school teachers, administrators and board members. The committee can only give a recommendation to the school board, not draft and vote on policy.  

"I have no problem with it going back to that committee," Carpenter said. "And I have no problem with you changing. That's fine and dandy with me."

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Right now, the board is leaning toward opening the book-banning process to anyone in the county over 18.

In a draft policy change, it states, "A parent /guardian or  Cabarrus County citizen over the age of eighteen (18) years of age will identify him/herself, and may request that his/her name and the student’s name will remain, confidential when submitting a Level I Request for Reconsideration form in writing to the principal and copied to the superintendent regarding the use of particular instructional materials" 

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This is a reversal from a push a few weeks ago to give the board complete autonomy to remove books.  

Some board members want everything to slow down. 

“I'm more concerned about making sure our public has enough time to digest this as a whole and give us feedback to it before we vote on it," board member Rob Walter said. 

The board has the authority to adopt the new policy immediately without going through a weeks-long process due to the nature of the changes. 

"If you read your board policy, you know that board, the board can adopt the policy at any given time," Holly Grimsley, the board chair said.

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Some parents are upset the national wave of book banning is going too far. 

“Only about 100 people emailed the school board about 'Looking for Alaska,'" Russell Wright said. 

Wright also criticized Blackwell for participating in an interview with Steve Bannon on books in school, a move that garnered criticism from her fellow board members. 

Bannon served as the White House's chief strategist in the administration of President Donald Trump during the first seven months of Trump's term.

He is currently facing a six-count indictment in New York for money laundering, conspiracy, and scheming to defraud. 

The fight on how books can be removed is now going back to a board committee. An accepted vote on the policy change will likely happen near or after the November election.

Contact Shamarria Morrison at smorrison@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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