After months of reviewing 31 books and instructional materials that had been challenged as being inappropriate for elementary school students by a local parents group, a Williamson County Schools reconsideration committee flagged one of the titles for removal from the English language arts curriculum.
Walk Two Moons, a 1994 novel written by Sharon Creech and a winner of the 1995 Newbery Medal, was recommended to be taken out of the Wit and Wisdom curriculum for WCS fourth grade students. The five-member committee reached the decision earlier this week, releasing a 114-page report compiled six months after the review process began in July.
“The committee has reached the conclusion that Walk Two Moons should not be taught in the fourth grade in the fourth quarter in WCS classrooms,” the report reads. “It is essential to note this is not a value judgement of the book or its connection to the curriculum. The committee makes note the book has great merit. The determination was taken very seriously by the committee after much consideration of a variety of factors.”
This comes on the heels of Tennessee garnering national attention for the banning of books from educational systems. The Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus, an acclaimed work dealing with the Holocaust, was recently banned from the eighth-grade curriculum by the McMinn County school board to much outcry.
The process to review Walk Two Moons and 30 other texts used in the fourth grade got underway upon a request for reconsideration submitted by the Williamson County chapter of Moms for Liberty, a conservative nonprofit that has taken WCS and its school board to task on other issues involving parental rights.
Robin Steenman, chair of the local chapter for Moms for Liberty, said through a statement the group is not surprised at the committee’s findings.
“The outcome of the 4.403 Reconsideration process is largely what we expected,” she said. “The WCS school board, superintendent, and administration have dismissed parents’ concerns and we have no reason to believe that a committee cherry-picked by those same entities would reach any different conclusion.
“Upon initial review of the recommendations, it is apparent that the committee largely dismissed parent concerns in favor of 'excellent online reviews.' In essence, WCS leadership prefers feedback from Amazon reviews over the feedback of the actual parent of the child. …
“This outcome is not a victory for parents, children, or their faith in WCS leadership.”
According to the committee’s report, each member read each book submitted as a text of concern through the reconsideration process. Committee members read the text with board policy 4.403 under consideration — whether the text supports the curriculum, if the text has strength and value, and if it has objectionable content.
The committee received 40 specific complaints, according to the report, with those coming from 37 people. One complainant sent reconsideration documentation to four schools (Heritage, Longview, Allendale and Chapman’s Retreat). The report also pointed out that 14 complainants have one or more children enrolled in elementary school; nine have children in WCS but they are not enrolled in elementary school; and 14 are community members without children in WCS.
The board policy states the committee’s decision can be appealed to the Board of Education 15 days after the release of the report, making Feb. 15 the date for Moms for Liberty to appeal. According to the Tennessean, Steenman has already filed an appeal with the Tennessee Department of Education.
Serving on the reconsideration committee were Juli Oyer, assistant superintendent of WCS Elementary Schools and committee chair; Michelle Organ, PTO representative; Jill Justus, WCS elementary school principal; KC Haugh, school board member; and Sharla Bratton, Williamson County Education Association representative.