Dearborn schools show how to handle a library controversy

The school board listened to the public and removed seven books, as their fate is reviewed

No books were burned in the making of this compromise.

The Dearborn school board removed seven library books from the shelves, in agreement with parents and community members who felt the titles were inappropriate. The books will be reviewed by a to-be-formed committee, which will decide their ultimate fate in the school district. The The Detroit Free Press reported that the seven books are:

“Push” by Sapphire; “All Boys Aren't Blue” by George M. Johnson; “And They Lived” by Steven Salvatore; “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold; “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell; “Red, White and Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston and “This Book is Gay” by Juno Dawson.

This will no doubt be misreported as a “book ban” in Michigan. School systems do not have the power to ban books. Their only purview is their own programs and facilities.

Members of the board of education are elected by their neighbors. They can be voted out of office. Rather than opt for that extreme, the board listened to the community and agreed with it, and will pull the materials for now.

The Freep reports:

Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education member Mary Petlichkoff said the district’s decisions should reflect the values of the entire community.

“(The) role of public education is to help our students enter the adult world, where they will be faced with a variety of concepts that may not necessarily reflect their own perspectives or values,” she said.

The real world also involves compromise. There is a time and place for everything.

People who want those books can still find them on their own. There was never a promise that every library would carry every book.

Communities are well within their rights to question the materials offered to their children, and for public consumption. Such offerings are made with community tax dollars, in the community’s name.

Patmos Library, a public library in West Michigan, showed how not to handle a controversy. When community members expressed concern about the sexual content of 90 books, out of 67,000, the library’s leaders refused to remove them.

In response, taxpayers in Ottawa County’s Jamestown Township declined to approve the library’s renewal millage in August, by a margin of 62.5% to 37.5%. The operating millage accounts for 84% of the library’s budget.

Library officials will make an attempt at a smaller millage in November.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.