The Hamilton County Schools Book Review Committee will hold a final meeting and decide on recommendations

The Hamilton County School Board’s Book Review Committee – formed to ‘review content issues with reading material and explore options available to address those concerns,’ according to a memorandum to the committee from board chairman Tucker McClendon – is expected to hold its last meeting on Tuesday.

Committee members were asked to email their recommendations to Board Administrative Assistant Sherrie Ford by the end of the day Monday. The committee will discuss the suggestions on Tuesday and possibly make a recommendation to the school board for policy changes related to supplemental reading materials at the next board meeting on March 17.

At the committee’s last meeting on February 22, some members questioned whether policy changes were warranted, how many parents were complaining about reading materials, and whether the books on the list of “books of concern” distributed to members of the committee were actually on the library shelves. .

Autumn Witt Boyd, a committee member representing the Lookout Mountain and North Chattanooga area, asked Jamie Parris, director of teaching and learning for Hamilton County High Schools, if he had any evidence of parental complaints about books.

Parris said his office has not received any complaints, although some may have been filed at the school level.

(READ MORE: Hamilton County School Board member questions ‘despicable content’ in library books as parent group plans to ‘fight for diverse literature’)

Last fall, Hamilton County Schools told the Times Free Press that three forms for requesting a review of teaching materials had been filed: one for Robin Benway’s “Far from the Tree” submitted on October 12 and two submitted on October 13 for “The Hate U Give” and “On the Come Up” by Angie Thomas.

School board member Rhonda Thurman of Hixson, chair of the committee, said at the Feb. 22 meeting that a few forms were sent to her last year. She said she did not know which schools these parents’ children attended.

Documentation obtained by The Times Free Press shows that on October 13, Brandy Howard of Ooltewah emailed forms requesting reconsideration for “The Hate U Give” and “On the Come Up” to all members of the school board, a district administrator and East Hamilton High School Principal Brent Eller.

Robyn Kremser of Ooltewah emailed a form requesting a review of ‘Far from the Tree’ to all members of the Hamilton County Commission as well as the high school librarian Soddy Daisy Jeanne Mochel and a district administrator on October 1.

The form asked complainants to identify “what you would like your school to do about the material”, and the women checked the box “Remove it from all students and my child”.

Howard is president and Kremser is co-president of the Hamilton County chapter of the national group Moms for Liberty, which “is dedicated to America’s survival by uniting, educating and empowering parents to defend their parental rights. at all levels of government”. “, according to the band’s website.

Kremser wrote in her email that the Moms for Liberty group has “read, reviewed, and summarized all of the books on your public school’s recommended and required reading lists.”

Howard and Kremser did not return phone calls. It is unclear from the forms and related documentation whether they have children attending Hamilton County Public Schools, and Hamilton County Schools Communications Officer Steve Doremus said that he could not confirm if that was the case.


Read complaint letters (warning: offensive language)

To see

The complaints total 42 pages and document 92 uses of the F-word and 68 uses of the S-word, among other obscenities. Offensive words are shown in red bold type.

In his email, Kremser expressed frustration for parents trying to have the books removed.

“Our group chairs and co-chairs have all reached out to you publicly, privately, as a group and individually, to see what can be done about the concerns we find in these books,” she wrote. “Every person we talk to keeps passing us on to another person, another shape, another hoop.”

In the form, Kremser wrote that she opposes the inclusion in “Far From the Tree” of “teen sex, pregnancy, drugs, alcohol, violence, LGBTQ heroes but anti-parenting, anti-Catholic, addiction, depression, tons of language and CRT fault [critical race theory].”

“This book glorifies the curse, the rebellion against parents and teachers, and LGBTQ characters,” she wrote. “The main thrust of this material is that parents and white people are ignorant idiots, and teenagers know better than anyone that drugs, name-calling, and gay girlfriends are normal and good.”

(READ MORE: In wealthy Williamson County, an uproar over critical race theory)

In her email, she wrote a series of questions for school officials, including:

— “If the phrase ‘garbage in, garbage out’ is true, is this the kind of material we want the students representing our school district to consume?” »

— “Is this reading material useful, encouraging, true or necessary?”

— “If our job is to choose from the ‘buffet’ of the curriculum, is that nurturing? Is that how low we regard our own students?”


Where are the books: the document by district breaks it down

To see

Howard wrote in his request for review of “The Hate U Give” that the main idea of ​​the book is that “cops randomly shoot black children” and “therefore, black children should be afraid of the police. The book teaches that it is acceptable to participate in violent activities as a form of ‘protest’.

In his request for review for “On the Come Up”, Howard wrote that the main idea of ​​the book is “that black teenagers are angry. They believe that police officers shoot black people ‘for no reason’.”

According to Doremus, the school system’s communications manager, 13 of the 33 books identified as “books of concern” in handouts distributed to committee members are not on the shelves of any school library in the district.

“It doesn’t seem like a huge problem,” Meg Day, a committee member for the Signal Mountain and Red Bank area, said of the school board’s extra reading policies at the Feb. 22 meeting. “I want a policy that allows for subjectivity, because I don’t think anyone wants me to write their moral code for them. I don’t want anyone to write my moral code for me, especially when it comes to relates to selective reading.”

She said parents were contacting her about wanting to keep the books in the schools, but no one had contacted her to support removing the books from libraries.

Thurman, the committee’s chairman, said the books had to be a problem or state lawmakers wouldn’t be so active in addressing it.

(READ MORE: Tennessee Republicans disagree on how far to go to advance ‘obscene’ book legislation)

“It’s obviously a huge problem if we have bills in the Legislative Assembly,” Thurman said. “Somebody caught somebody’s eye, and it wasn’t just two or three parents who caused all of this. I think some lawmakers in Tennessee have really found out what’s going on, just like some parents have found out what’s going on. There’s a lot of parents upset about this, or we wouldn’t have all these bills that are now in Tennessee House, and if they pass, as I said, there are obviously more than a few parents unhappy about this.”

Loretta Lowe, representing the Ooltewah area, said school boards across the country are facing the same problem.

“The parents were woken up,” she said. “I have been contacted since our last meeting by my constituents in my district, and they are absolutely furious because they had no idea this was happening in our schools.”


Statement of Purpose of the Hamilton County Schools Book Review Committee

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James McKissic, representing the Brainerd area, said he thought for many committee members the goal was to get “books of concern” off the shelves.

“If that’s the end goal, it’s not about individual choice, your rights as a parent; it’s just about completely banning the books, making decisions and telling other families to what they have access to,” McKissic said. “When you hand me a list of books that are all black, all LGBT [materials]it’s also about erasing the community.”

The committee first met Feb. 8 after being formed at the suggestion of McClendon, the school board president, to address objectionable readings.

The group’s final meeting will take place Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the Hamilton County School Board Conference Room, 3074 Hickory Valley Road.

Contact Emily Crisman at [email protected] or 423-757-6508.

Staff photo by Robin Rudd/Meg Day of District 2 poses a question to school board member Rhonda Thurman during the book review committee meeting Feb. 8.

List of “books of concern” distributed to members of the reading committee by the president Rhonda Thurman:

– “It’s Perfectly Normal” by Robie H. Harris

– “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison

— “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe

– “My Princess Boy” by Cheryl Kilodavis

– “Prince and Knight” by Daniel Haack

– “Weird Girl and What’s His Name” by Meagan Brothers

– “Being Jazz: My Teenage Life (Transgender)” by Jazz Jennings

— “Kiss Number 8” by Colleen AF Venable

– “Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me” by Mariko Tamaki

– “The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel” by Margaret Atwood and Renee Nault

– “The Last Man” by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra

— “V for Vendetta” by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

– “None of the above” by IW Gregorio

– “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Pérez

– “Red on the Bone” by Jacqueline Woodson

– “Brave Face: A Memoir” by Shaun David Hutchinson

— “Ordinary Dangers: A Memoir” by Nikki Grimes

– “Scream” by Laurie Halse Anderson

– “Speak Up” by Laurie Halse Anderson

– “Girls from Nowhere” by Amy Reed

– “My friend Dahmer” by Derf Backderf

– “Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel” by Val Emmich

— “American Street” by Ibi Zoboi

– “The Book of Unknown Americans” by Cristina Henríquez

– “Not All Boys Are Blue” by George M. Johnson

– “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” by Alison Bechdel

– “Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts)” by LC Rosen

– “The beautiful girl and her beautiful boy” by BT Gottfred

– “Far from the Tree” by Robin Benway

– “On the Come Up” by Angie Thomas

– “The Hate You Give” by Angie Thomas


Hamilton County Schools Librarian’s Handbook for 2021-22

To see

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