STILLWATER — At least one Stillwater parent has filed a request to have a book removed from a school library after several people raised concerns at a recent school board meeting.
At the Aug. 9 school board meeting in Stillwater, some parents and community members said library books, including ‘The Truth About Alice’ and ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’, contain sexual content inappropriate for students. Stillwater Public Schools has a process for such requests, including forming a committee to review the material and determine whether the book should remain in circulation.
Barry Fuxa, communications coordinator for the school district, said withdrawal requests must be made for each book and are site-specific. At least one college in the district has received a request to remove a book since the board meeting, he said. Prior to the meeting, the district had not received such requests recently. Only parents, guardians and site employees can submit a request to a specific school.
Stillwater parents and residents disagree on which books students should have access to
Karen Flack, a Stillwater resident for more than 30 years, said the school district needs to take a closer look when choosing books. Flack said she has four children and 10 grandchildren, many of whom attend public schools in Stillwater.
Flack named two books, ‘The Truth About Alice’ and ‘Perfect’, which she said were about promiscuity, abortion, sex, sexual assault, drug and alcohol abuse, profanity , racial comments, self-harm, anorexia and suicide.
“I just think there’s no need for that in our libraries,” Flack said. “I don’t know who’s in charge of our libraries, how the books come in, or who checks them, I don’t really know. But it’s just not appropriate. To me, it’s like you have a video porn section for kids to check out.”
A statement from Stillwater Public Schools said the district welcomes the conversation about literature available to students. If the parent does not agree with the committee’s decision, he or she may file a complaint with the school board, whose decision will be final.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, a gubernatorial candidate, said decisions about books in school libraries should be made at the local level.
“Parents need to be involved in this process and have a say in what their children have access to,” Hofmeister said in a statement. “There are steps in the law by which these books can be reviewed, and those steps must be followed.”
Robin Fuxa, Stillwater parent, educator and school library media specialist, said her right to choose what her children have access to read should not be hindered by other parents. Fuxa is also the wife of Barry Fuxa.
“A character taking an action doesn’t mean that we approve of said action; it means that sometimes people take those actions,” Fuxa said. “If we never give our children the chance to consider a wider range of perspectives, we are doing them a disservice and putting them in a position of struggle when they go out into the wider world…Books don’t have the power to corrupt as some fear. Books have a different kind of power that can save lives by making children feel seen.”
Accreditation issues due to violations of House Bill 1775 — which prohibits teaching that any race is superior or that anyone should feel uncomfortable because of their race or gender — in Tulsa public schools and Mustang were mentioned during Riley Flack’s public comments. Both school districts have been granted “accredited with caveat” status by the Oklahoma State Board of Education.
“You’re going to have the same problem if you don’t clean it up,” Flack said. “And I will find it.”
Tulsa Public Schools recently removed two sexually graphic books from school libraries that included drawings of scenes depicting masturbation and gay sex.
Flack read an explicit excerpt from the book “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”, and then pointed out that the book contained multiple repeated examples of the most extreme forms of profanity.
“There shouldn’t be a book ban under any circumstances. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying for that,” Flack said. “There should be academic books in school libraries.”