WICHITA, Kansas — The Goddard school district has removed more than two dozen books from circulation in the district’s school libraries, citing national attention and challenges to the books elsewhere.
The list of books includes several well-known novels, including “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, “Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky.
It also includes “Fences,” a play by August Wilson that won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1987, and “They Called Themselves the K.K.K.,” a historical look at how the white supremacist group took root in America.
Julie Cannizzo, assistant superintendent for academic affairs in Goddard, sent an email to principals and librarians last week with the list of 29 books.
“At this time, the district is not in a position to know if the books contained on this list meet our educational goals or not,” Cannizzo wrote in the email. “Additionally, we need to gain a better understanding of the processes utilized to select books for our school libraries.
“For these reasons, please do not allow any of these books to be checked out while we are in the process of gathering more information. If a book on this list is currently checked out, please do (not) allow it to be checked out again once it's returned.”
Cannizzo said in the email that the district is assembling a committee to “rate the content of the books on the list” and to review the selection process. She did not say how long the process is expected to take.
Cannizzo said Tuesday that one parent objected to language he found offensive in “The Hate U Give,” a novel about the aftermath of a police officer killing a Black teenager. The parent then submitted a list of books he questioned, and district officials agreed to halt checkouts and complete a review.
"We're not banning these books or anything like that as a district," she said. "It was just brought to our attention that that list of books may have content that's unsuitable for children."
Cannizzo said she plans to meet with school librarians this week. She wouldn't say when or if the books would return to circulation.
“We haven’t even evaluated these books," she said. "I couldn’t even tell you what these books have in them or why someone may find them offensive or not."
Library catalogs for all 12 Goddard schools are available on the district’s website.
A Goddard district policy adopted in 2016 spells out procedures for challenging textbooks, library books or instructional materials. Anyone with a complaint about a book is directed to meet first with the school principal and submit a “request for review” form.
If a challenge isn’t resolved at the school level, it goes to the superintendent and then the school board. Board members may forward a complaint to a review committee made up of the building principal, media specialist, two subject area specialists and two community members.
According to the district’s policy, “Challenged materials shall not be removed from use during the review period.”
The development comes just days after a Texas state lawmaker launched an investigation into Texas school districts over the type of books they have, particularly if they pertain to race or sexuality or “make students feel discomfort.”
Goddard’s list includes several books written by people of color or featuring characters from diverse backgrounds. Some feature LGBTQ protagonists or young people struggling with issues of gender or sexuality.
Jaime Prothro, Wichita’s director of libraries, said there’s an increase in challenges to library purchases nationwide.
“What we’re seeing in the publishing world is a lot more marginalized voices — LGBTQ, Black experiences,” Prothro said. “These are books that people have been yearning to read, and they're being published with more frequency.
“And when more diverse books are published, that is actually going to impact the collection makeup of any library. . . . That’s definitely something that’s kind of pushing on a nerve for a number of people who are more comfortable with more mainstream lifestyles.”
“The Hate U Give” is a young adult novel about the aftermath of a police officer killing a Black teenager. “Black Girl Unlimited” explores issues of poverty, sexual violence, depression and racism. “Blended” is about an 11-year-old biracial girl dealing with her parents’ divorce.
Prothro said she can’t speak specifically to issues at play in Goddard or other districts. But she worries that current debates over books could limit access to diverse stories and experiences.
“That one family may choose not to read something does not determine whether or not it’s appropriate for another family,” she said.
“We really do celebrate the freedom of choice. And in a library situation, if that book isn’t for you, just return it.”
Here is the list of books ordered to be removed from circulation in Goddard school libraries:
“#MurderTrending” by Gretchen McNeil
“All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson
“Anger is a Gift” by Mark Oshiro
“Black Girl Unlimited” by Echo Brown
“Blended” by Sharon M. Draper
“Crank” by Ellen Hopkins
“Fences” by August Wilson
“Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” by Alison Bechdel
“Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe
“Heavy” by Kaise Laymon
“Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison
“Lily and Dunkin” by Donna Gephart
“Living Dead Girl” by Elizabeth Scott
“Monday’s Not Coming” by Tiffany D. Jackson
“Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Perez
“Satanism” by Tamara L. Roleff
“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie
“The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison
“The Girl Who Fell From the Sky” by Heidi W. Durrow
“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
“The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel” adapted by Renee Nault
“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky
“The Testaments” by Margaret Atwood
“They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group” by Susan Campbell Bertoletti
“This Book is Gay” by James Dawson
“This One Summer” (graphic novel) by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
“Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard” by Alex Bertie
Suzanne Perez reports on education for KMUW in Wichita and the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT. The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of Kansas Public Radio, KCUR, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.