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Book removal at Bayfield school alarming

I’m responding to an Oct. 8 story in the Herald about the decision to remove a book from a Bayfield Middle School teacher’s classroom library.

Superintendent Kevin Aten made this decision after receiving a verbal complaint about the book, which some find controversial because the two main characters are gay. Aten claims that the book dispute has been “confounded” (conflated) with a personnel issue, and he is therefore not obligated to explain his reasoning. Even so, several things about this situation should alarm parents and students in Bayfield or in any other public school district.

Although there is an established district policy in regard to potentially controversial material, Aten did not actually follow that policy, which requires that a complaint should be made in writing. In addition, when books are challenged, it’s standard operating procedure for those making a decision to actually read the material in its entirety; it’s unclear whether that happened here.

In essence, I object to the removal of the book, but also to the short-circuited process involved in taking it off the shelves. The fact is that this book was made available to students in a classroom library as an optional choice; it was not required reading. When materials are unilaterally removed from a classroom library, everybody’s rights are violated. If parents do not want their child to read a particular book, that is their right. But it is not their right to decide that, because they object to a book, no one else can read it either.

Maureen Neal

Durango