Sheridan County school board approves first reading of policy to retain opt-out option solution for books

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SHERIDAN – SCSD2 discussed two versions of a policy to determine if the school board should ban explicit books from school libraries in the district. The board passed ILJ Version 1 on first reading Monday.

Several of the trustees said they believe the opt-out solution currently in place is better than banning books in the district and to protect the parents’ and students’ right to choose. 

Trustee opinions varied.

“If we do not make our policy clear, I believe it will get more graphic. Look at California and Colorado, we will see books that highlight oral sex, drag queen story hour and books that normalize pedophilia, as that is the end result of this,” SCSD2 Trustee Shelta Rambur said. “We will see books that sexualize pre-K to fifth grade.”

Other trustees spoke on the importance of trusting educators to choose appropriate reading materials for students, and that pornography is not actually in the libraries. 

“We have professionals who are hired to do this. We are demeaning our educators when we say we know better than they do,” SCSD2 Trustee Ann Perkins said. “We want our parents to be involved, that means if they want to opt out they can opt out, but they have no right to tell another student what they can read.”

Public comment varied, as well, with some pushing for trustees to take action and ban explicit books and others defending the educational rights of the youth. 

“It is important to define our terms as it is easy to become divisive. Do you trust the librarians, parents  or teachers?” Sheridan resident Brian Kuehl said. “We have to encourage our kids to be free thinkers and we need to trust our teachers and trust our librarians.”

While a majority of the trustees and members of the public in attendance Monday supported the current opt-out system, others in attendance had comments in support of banning explicit books to protect the innocence of the students. 

“I have had the wonderful privilege of living in Sheridan off and on since 1944. I have raised all of my children to be respectful of their teachers and to trust them,” former educator and Sheridan resident Barbara Hill said. “I don’t think I can do that wholeheartedly if they have access to this explicit material in their libraries.”

Board trustees passed version one of the policy on first reading by a vote of 7-2, with Trustees Shelta Rambur and Michael Lansing voting against the policy. The policy will now go back to the SCSD2 Board of Trustees Policy Committee for review before returning for second reading at a board meeting later this year.