BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) — Some Beaufort County parents want books they feel are “lewd” or “inappropriate” to be taken off school shelves.

The school district is listening to and investigating complaints but the final decision on what should or should not be in libraries will not only be up to them.

Those decisions will be in the hands of committees. Committees are made up of educators, school officials, local parents and regular citizens.

“His arms wrap around me and his hands go straight to my boobs,” Joe Castagnino read out loud at a Beaufort County Board of Education meeting in October.

That passage was from the book “Tricks” — a best seller about teen prostitution that Castagnino says his son checked out of May River High Schools’ library.

That led to a review of 97 books found in local school libraries being temporarily pulled from shelves. Those reviews will start with the first four books and committees on Thursday.

“These books have objectionable material,” explained Dr. Mary Stratos, Chief Instructional Officer for Beaufort County Schools. “So let us pause at a district level and put things in place to review.”

“The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “Speak” and “The Kite Runner” are the first four books to be reviewed. The district said that’s in part because they are used in some Advanced Placement classes.

According to the South Carolina Department of Education’s recommendation, committees are to include an odd number of the following members: at least one teacher with expertise in the content area or grade level; at least one school librarian; at least one school administrator; at least one parent representing a school family other than the complainant; at least one community member; at least one district-level director or coordinator with expertise in the content area; and at least one member of a School Improvement Council (SIC) within the district.

Committee members will be tasked with reading their assigned book in full and then meeting as a group to share and discuss findings. The value of the book is to be examined as a whole, considering the impact of an entire work, transcending individual words, phrases, and incidents.

“The line should be drawn on do they support the academic learning of children,” said
Former South Carolina State School Superintendent.

A former South Carolina State School Superintendent, Barbara Nielsen believes any review should start with learning, not literature.

“We have standards we are supposed to teach, math, science social studies and so forth,” said Nielsen. “Is the book appropriate for those standards. Is it appropriate for the age group it is in.”

The 97 books on the list came from a rating system by the group “Moms for Liberty”, a group that works to have books they feel are “offensive” removed from schools.

While Nielsen believes we have to make sure kids don’t have easy access to lewd material, these committees have to make sure they don’t take away books with value for students.

“There was one book people were upset about because it talked about bullying,” said Nielsen. “Well, folks bullying goes on in school. If it is happening and a child reads it. It may give them something that they can help handle that.”

“We are in a society today where people can’t seem to agree on anything. If there’s one thing we should agree on it is our children.”

Beaufort County Schools say the committee recommendation will then lead to the book being placed back on shelves or pulled permanently.

The Materials Reconsideration Committee will complete its review and issue a written report within fifteen business days. A copy of the report shall be sent to the complainant, the Superintendent, and the Board of Education.

If the Materials Reconsideration Committee recommends the material in question be removed, the BCSD must ensure no other copies exist in school library circulation within the BCSD for the school level(s) it has been recommended for removal.

No matter what happens, no challenges to those books can be made again for five years.

The district’s hope is to have the entire process finished early next year.