School board moves on masks, book decision looms

District committee recommended keeping the book “George” in school libraries

CARTHAGE — After hearing from interim superintendent Tim Locklear on the status of COVID-19, the Moore County school board voted to make changes to the system’s COVID protocols.

The county’s staff recommended the school system allow students to return faster from isolation in line with state guidance. Instead of a mandatory 10-day isolation, students and staff could return from isolation after 6 days if certain criteria were met. The board continued the policy of not requiring masks and expanded that policy to school buses after federal changes allowed the change.

The board also heard an update on the superintendent search. A survey of community members as well as school staff, including teachers and administrators, was conducted. The survey was intended to highlight some of the issues each group thought were important when the board considers applicants for superintendent. Over 640 members of the community responded to the survey and 478 staff members completed the survey. The survey results and the comments will be utilized by the board as they move forward with the superintendent search process.

The board also heard from the district’s Media and Technology Advisory Committee. On Dec. 15, 2021, the district received a complaint related to the book “George” by Alex Gino which is in the media collection at Union Pines High School and McDeeds Creek Elementary School. School-level committees had reviewed the complaint and recommended the book remain at each school.

On Jan. 26, 2022, the district received a request for the board to review the school-level decision. The board, which has sole authority to make a decision related to the book’s inclusion as a school resource, appointed a broader committee to review the book’s status at the two schools. The committee held meetings on Feb. 17, 22, 24 and March 1. Committee members Dalija Breecher and Denise Martin did not attend any of the meetings, according to a report by the committee.

The complaint, filed by James Pedersen, said the book does not address the “diversity of needs, interests, and viewpoints of students.” Pedersen said in his complaint that the book introduces children to pornography, teaches them to hide their browser history and discusses genital mutilation.

Locklear introduced the recommendation of the advisory committee and said he recommended the board accept the recommendation to keep the book in the libraries of both schools.

The committee recommended that “George” remain in both schools’ libraries. The report presented to the board Monday included comments from the committee justifying their position. With respect to McDeeds Creek Elementary, the committee “determined that the book addresses positive messages about acceptance, diversity and inclusion. Members of the team expressed that the media collection should reflect the diverse demographics and needs of its community and should provide resources representative of the many religious, ethnic, and cultural groups.”

The committee’s report also characterized the complainant’s concerns as “out of context” and several members of the committee said the excerpts were “inaccurately portrayed.” The committee recognized that “various professional literary organizations recommend the book for grade 4 and higher” but noted “there were some discrepancies between the age recommendations of these reviewers.”

With respect to Union Pines High School, the committee said the members determined the book “is appropriate for a high school media center.”

The committee recommendation is not the final say on the matter. The board will vote at its March 14 business meeting.

By Moore County Staff

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