Forsyth County Schools plans to pass a new policy that would allow parents to challenge materials offered in schools that are “harmful to minors” to align with new state legislation.
Chief Technology and Information Officer Mike Evans presented the proposed policy to the Board of Education at its work session on Tuesday, Sept. 13, noting that it is based on SB 226, which Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law in April.
The legislation is meant to help expedite the process for school materials to be reviewed and removed from either the media center or the classroom. FCS already has a book challenge policy in place for media center materials, but Evans said this proposed policy would exist alongside the current policy.
Evans explained that this new policy will “address complaints submitted by parents or permanent guardians alleging that material that is harmful to minors has been provided or is currently available to his or her child who is enrolled in this school system.”
The policy focuses more on materials that include “nudity, sexual content, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse.”
To be considered “harmful to minors” the material being challenged must also meet three criteria:
“Taken as a whole, predominantly appeals to the prurient, shameful or morbid interest of minors;
Is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable material for minors;
Is, when taken as a whole, lacking in serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.”
In the district’s current policy, any resident of Forsyth County can challenge a school media center book for any reason. That complaint starts with the school principal and is handed off to the Local Media Committee, which then has 45 days to review the book and decide whether to remove it from the library.
The proposed policy, however, allows only parents at the school to challenge material that might be considered “harmful to minors.” But that material also includes the books offered inside teacher’s classrooms.
After a formal complaint is submitted with the school principal, the school would have seven days to review the book and three extra days to provide a decision. If the complainant is unhappy with that decision, they can also appeal it to the Board of Education within 20 days.
The board would then have 30 days to respond to the complaint, and if the members decide that the challenged material is not harmful to minors, they would be required to post their decision on the board website within 15 days where it would remain for at least one year.
Evans said, under this new policy, the decision would still only apply to the school where the complaint was made.
“The language of the law states that it’s a community,” Evans said. “A decision at the North community might be different than the decision at a Lambert community or Denmark or West community. So the decision is going to be applied to the school where it was submitted.”
Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden said, however, that he predicts a decision at one school would expedite book challenges made at other schools in the county.
“It’s pretty hard for us as a governance team representing all of Forsyth County to say, ‘This book should be removed from high school A but it’s going to stay in high school B,’” Bearden said. “The law is the law and we have to follow it, but from a practical matter, I think it certainly sets in motion what would happen at another school if it gets challenged.”
The proposed policy is now posted to the district’s website where it will be open for public feedback until the board is ready to take a final vote on it on Oct. 18.
For more information, visit the website at www.forsyth.k12.ga.us.