Superintendent of Wicomico County Public Schools Makes Excuses for Using Inappropriate Materials
On May 17, 2021 a report was released by the Delmarva Parent Teacher Coalition titled:
"Wicomico County Board of Education Continues to Expose Minors to Obscenity" If you did not already read this report and see the samples of the books, we encourage you to first read the original article at the link above before hearing the Superintendent's response. On May 21, 2021 the Wicomico County Board of Education attended a Wicomico County Council meeting to discuss school funding for the new year. After the WCBOE made their short presentation, Councilman Joe Holloway had some very serious questions for the WCBOE and its Administration on the use of obscene books in the schools. We applaud the Councilman for being bold and asking these questions, which unexpectedly threw the Superintendent off guard. Play the video below to hear the Superintendent's response of excuses:
Councilman Holloway asks: "What's the purpose of having books like that in our schools?"
Superintendent replies: "We are currently reviewing the books based upon the concern that was expressed. Typically, we receive those concerns if there's a parent concern about a book in a media center through the school rather than through the media, but in any case we will be going through our process, taking a look at them, and making sure that they are appropriate for our media collections. One of the books in fact, that had been mentioned in the the post, was that concern was expressed several years ago, and that book is no longer in general circulation." So, we do have a process where we review the books, and that's our plan."
Councilman Holloway asks: "How did they get there?"
Superintendent Hanlin replies: "Quite honest with you Mr. Holloway, I've been reviewing that process that was put in place by a previous superintendent. But it's my understanding that media specialists, when they want to put a book in the in the collection, that there are some required documents, which have to do with reviews by.... and I'm trying to think of what some of the organizations, but there are some organizations that determine the appropriateness of books for media centers. But obviously, people have varied views on books that are in our media centers, and so just because they pass that review and are entered in the collection doesn't mean that we aren't open to reviewing and considering moving something out of the out of the collection, out of general circulation, or determining that it's appropriate."
Councilman President Dodd: "Any comments Mr. Malone?"
WCBOE Board President Malone: "No."
The Superintendent never answered Mr. Holloway's questions of "What's the purpose of having a book like that in our schools? " and "How did these books get there?" To support her common pattern of deflection and diversion, the Superintendent states that there is a formal documentation process to determine if a media specialist can purchase a book (using taxpayer dollars) and entered into the school as a learning resource. She also specifies that the approval of the screening process rests on third-party organizations outside of WCBOE/WCPS, where some group of strangers determine appropriateness for our children. The Superintendent is admitting a bypass of the Curriculum Screening Council, and has no regard to the existing school policy on the selection and review of textbooks, instructional materials, and media materials. The Superintendent tries to establish that a media collection of a school library is separate from the school curriculum or teaching materials, which is not true. The WCBOE has a policy which applies to any book, instructional material, and media that enters the school system, which they are violating:
The Delmarva Parent Teacher Coalition has exhibits of class agendas listing inappropriate and obscene books that were taken from the media center and used in class. In addition, there are many English teachers who assign independent reading projects in their class, where students can go to the school's media center, pick out a book, and write an analysis of it. Between teachers using books from the media center and assigning independent reading projects, there is no distinction or separation of the school's media center from the curriculum. The media center should not contain books that should not have been purchased to begin with. This is not about censorship, but about WCBOE/WCPS violating existing school policy, procedure, state, and federal laws that define appropriateness.
Superintendent's Dishonest Excuse # 1: "We will be going through our process, taking a look at them, and making sure that they are appropriate for our media collections"
This is being reactive (not proactive) especially when the WCBOE has had several warnings. Since this has gone viral in the local media, now suddenly they will be reviewing the process.
Superintendent's Dishonest Excuse # 2: "That concern (Persepolis) was expressed several years ago, and that book is no longer in general circulation."
It was not several years ago, but just last year.
To this day, the book Persepolis, a book containing pornographic comics, remains in school media centers. Look at the date stamp at the bottom of each media center's inventory.
In the Superintendent's email, she stated that the book was inappropriate and should have never been distributed to students. Instead of completely removing the book from the school system (which was not approved to be there in the first place), she concurs that Persepolis is "inappropriate," while she and the Board devised a completely new process with an intent to circumvent existing policy in order to keep this book as a resource. This is criminal negligence. The book Persepolis, including Monday's Not Coming and # TrendingMurder should have never been ordered and added to the collection according to the board's policy. In addition, she claims that Persepolis was listed as an "ancillary resource" in an approved series, so therefore Persepolis was approved by the Curriculum Screening Council. Upon discovery through a FOIA request, the ISBN numbers of the entire Holt series that she is referring to as an "approved series" by the Curriculum Screening Council does not list Persepolis as an ancillary resource, as we have purchased the entire series for verification.
Superintendent's Dishonest Excuse #3: "But obviously, people have varied views on books that are in our media centers and so just because they pass that review and are entered in the collection doesn't mean that we aren't open to reviewing and considering moving something out of the out of the collection, out of general circulation, or determining that it's appropriate."
Superintendent Hanlin uses an excuse that people's views differ as to why a process was bypassed or inappropriate materials were approved. Implying that the majority see these materials as appropriate, everyone else that does not see these materials as appropriate or align with the school's agenda may get consideration on her terms, independent of any existing policy and law. She then tries to establish an illusion of justice by implying that the school system will address the issue, when they are really looking for ways to make an exception.
Superintendent's Dishonest Excuse #4: "I've been reviewing that process that was put in place by a previous superintendent."
Superintendent Hanlin blames the last Superintendent (Frederickson) for the negligence of today. Dr. Hanlin has been the Superintendent since 2016. She pretends that she is disconnected from the whole process, and must suddenly get involved to review. You can see below that she's number one on the list of Curriculum Council Members. In addition, the names on the list are all faculty and board members who are responsible and negligent. Notice there are no parents on this council. This is by design.
When the President of the WCBOE was asked if he had anything to say about all of this, he had nothing to say as usual. In representing the entire Board, his silence is consent to do what they have been doing.
How does this obscene and inappropriate material even make it to the school for consideration?
The Maryland College Ready Standards are the mechanism that opens the door for the WCBOE to stuff its public school libraries with obscene and inappropriate materials like the ones we have pointed out. The public school library is not a college library. We will discuss this in greater detail in a future article.
In the end, we hope that the Superintendent and the Board members simply do the right thing. That is, to align with existing policy and not working to underhandedly make exceptions or alter policies and procedures to accommodate such inappropriate materials. WCBOE/WCPS needs to go through their entire curriculum and media centers to completely remove materials that are obscene and inappropriate. This is not about censoring or banning books. It was the school system that crossed the line that is already established and well-defined. A college or public library is not the same as a K-12 public school library. If a parent wants their child to read materials that are in conflict with existing board policies and laws, then they can go to the public library. It's not up to parents to point out or dictate what's appropriate for a public school. It's up to the Curriculum Screening Council and the WCBOE to ensure that all books line up with existing school policies, procedures, state, and federal laws, independent of any external organizations, personal opinion, or "recommended readings" from the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) that negligently disregard and violate such policies and laws. As the WCBOE/WCPS reviews such materials (which there are many), we will request that the WCBOE provides the public with a list of existing materials that they found to be inappropriate, since they failed on their first and second try. On their third try, we hope that their list of identified materials matches our list, and that these materials are completely removed. This is the only way to remediate this very serious matter, and to avoid a class-action civil suit, in which the citizens of Wicomico have an absolute standing.
If you are a parent or Wicomico citizen, you can sign this petition to help put an end to this unacceptable practice by those who oversee the operations and instruction in our schools.
Fellows & Editors
May 27, 2021 Copyright DelmarvaPTC.org