Dan Cash and Angela Durham

School board members Angela Durham (District 1) and Dan Cash (District 2) during Monday night's meeting

Monday night’s Williamson County Board of Education meeting began with varied opinions from more than 30 parents, students and others from the community on the topic of certain books included in the curriculum for elementary schools in the Williamson County Schools district.

Some 3½ hours later, the meeting ended with board members voting overwhelmingly to approve a decision reached by a committee on what to do with said books. The board voted 8-2 in favor of the recommendation, with Dan Cash from District 2 and Josh Brown from District 4 casting the only nay votes. Jen Aprea, District 5, and Candy Emerson, District 8, were absent.

In January, 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 WCS 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, was recommended to be taken out of the Wit and Wisdom curriculum for the district’s fourth grade students. 

The five-member committee released a 114-page report compiled six months after the review process began in July. Nine appeals from parents followed the report’s release. 

Seven of the books were flagged to remain in the curriculum but with the allowance of instructional adjustments: Sea Horse: The Shyest Fish in the SeaFeelingsSeparate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for DesegregationLove that DogHatchetGeorge v. George: The American Revolution as Seen from Both Sides; and The River Between Us.

Jay Galbreath, District 6, voted to endorse the committee’s decision, but said he could understand parents’ concerns.

“I think the committee has done a really good job in addressing as much as they can without ripping and replacing a lot of these things,” he said as board members discussed the motion. “It just validates there were legitimate concerns out there. I don’t think any of these parents are trying to censor or trying to ban things; they’re just trying to get things that are appropriate for their kids.”

Thirty-three speakers from the community took to the podium during public comment, voicing both praise and concern about the committee’s findings as well as Wit and Wisdom in general.

“The recommendations from the committee were a great start and I appreciate them, but it’s not nearly enough,” said Shannon Kidder, mother of four children. “I am rightly concerned about the amount of deaths, violence and graphic material my youngest children will be forced to take in thanks to Wit and Wisdom.”

Molly Volker, one of four students from Franklin High School who spoke, said books of all kinds have helped to shape her place in the world.

“Since I was a little girl, I have loved reading, from nonfiction to high fantasy,” she said. “Reading relieved the claustrophobia of my narrow perspective, opening up my mind to the greater world and allowing me to understand my place in it.”

Several other items were on the agenda, including a resolution urging the Tennessee General Assembly to take no action on House and Senate bills that have been filed regarding various changes and additions to charter schools. Members voted 10-0 to approve the resolution.

Monday’s meeting can be viewed through the WCS YouTube page.