BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) — Some books are being pulled off school library shelves in Beaufort County after a man raised questions about the “adult content” in one of them.

“His arms wrap around me and his hands go straight to my boobs. I try to knock them away but I am no match for his strength.” That was Joe Castagnino reading an excerpt from the book “Tricks.”

Castagnino said the New York Times Bestseller says was inside the May River High School library, as well as five other middle and high school libraries in the County.

“These are some of the lines that are in a book in our schools, Middle and High schools, this is unacceptable,” Castagnino said.

Description of the book “Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins on Amazon.

The book’s Amazon description says it is about “Five troubled teens fall into prostitution as they search for freedom, safety, community, family and love.”

The school system has since pulled the book out of the schools.

“That book under myself would not be something that I would purchase,” said Dr. Mary Stratos, Beaufort County Chief Instructional Officer.

It also now has 97 other books off the shelves and “under review” for potentially inappropriate content. Titles that were given to the school district by a concerned community member.

“We made a decision working with legal that these books have objectionable material,”
said Stratos. “So lets us at a district level pause and put things in place to review.”

Right now the book-buying process according to state law starts with librarians themselves in each school.

The school district started developing an administrative regulation for book regulation in fall 2021.

Now Beaufort County School officials say they are working on a way to allow for more people to be involved. They want to assure Principals sit with librarians to make sure they know what is on the school shelves. More people know what is in kids’ hands.

“We are putting systems in place to not have as much autonomy,” said Dr. Stratos. “A more collaborative approach. Us being able to identify if the material is appropriate.”

“It’s not as easy as just removing a book from a Barnes and Noble shelf,” said Stratos. “There are 32 schools. This is a school system and we are shifting to culture change and putting a little more understanding to what we purchase as a school system.”

“We are looking at refining a selection process that will lend an opportunity for students to still be creative and have creative minds, but at what point is it too much.”

Stratos says as part of the process, parents can opt out of any material in a library or at an instructional level.

The District even made a Request for Reconsideration of School Library Materials form available to parents expressing concerns about books.

“No form to challenge any of the material that exists in our libraries has ever been turned in.. none,” Stratos said.

“Tricks” has been in schools since 2009 or 2016 depending on the campus. No one had complained until now.

Stratos isn’t blaming parents. She calls this part of the continual improvement process for the school district, and parents are a key part of that.

“We have worked under this administration to take a closer look and listen to our parents and be responsive, not reactive to their feedback,” said Stratos.

Castagnino says the District has not done enough, had a chance to stop this long before now, and wants someone to be held accountable.

“The school district, the administration, and the librarians need to be accountable for having these books in schools,” said Castagnino. “They need to be held to the same laws as anyone else would be. Because If I gave a book like or a bookstore would give a book like this to a minor that store would probably be shut down or the person arrested.”

Stratos would not say if any penalties, suspensions, or firings would be involved in the review of these books. Saying that would be up to Human Resources and the school system’s legal team.

The 97 books will be temporarily removed from the shelves and reviewed to see if they are appropriate for middle schoolers, high schoolers, or no school-age students at all.

The Board of Education will be talking about this issue at its next meeting.