Books on a library shelf

Denton ISD removes material from campus libraries each year, and officials adopt new textbooks regularly.

And if parents object to either assigned reading material or a book in the library, the district offers them another way to meet their student’s content requirements, as governed by Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards.

“Parents have the right and responsibility if they would like to look at materials we share with their children,” said Julie Zwahr, the chief communications officer for the district. “If they find something their student brings home is objectionable, all they have to do is say. The policy was last revised in 2002, so this has been available to people for the last 20 years.”

The 2020-21 Denton ISD Student and Parent Handbook states that parents can “review teaching materials, textbooks, and other teaching aids and instructional materials used in the curriculum.”

Parents can also examine tests given to their children. Parents can ask campus officials to allow their students to take home instructional materials, although the school can ask the student to return that material at the beginning of the next school day.

Denton ISD’s instructional resources policy requires officials to consider challenges from parents, district employees or district residents.

The policy requires parties to first use an informal process to resolve complaints. If that process fails, parties can make a formal complaint using a form provided by the district. The school principal then appoints a reconsideration committee that includes at least one staff member who has experience using the challenged material with students, or who is familiar with the challenged content. The committee makes a recommendation, and the complainant can appeal it.

Zwahr said campus libraries cull their collections each year during the summer. Materials that are too damaged or faded to be of use are removed from school libraries. Outdated material can be sold or donated.

“Some of them have broken spines, or graffiti, or they’re too faded to be used effectively,” Zwahr said. “It’s not just library books. It’s all books.”

Denton ISD policy forbids library staff from removing materials to keep students from reading ideas the district disagrees with, but the district is allowed to remove “pervasively vulgar” material, or material that doesn’t meet the district’s educational standards.

Textbooks become outdated, Zwahr said, and staff members sometime review them to decide whether the district needs updated material or if teachers can address outdated information in the classroom. Textbook adoptions happen regularly and on a revolving basis, and textbooks are made available for parents, staff and district residents to review before they’re adopted.

Digital material is updated, too.

Aside from the school libraries, Zwahr said teachers build collections in their classroom. Teachers often supplement textbooks and material with books, CDs, DVDs, posters and booklets that they know their students will use.

Teachers build their classroom libraries using money from corporate or philanthropic grants, and many teachers buy books and material for their classrooms out of their own pockets.

“We have teachers that are spending hundreds of their own money to bring reading material into their classrooms,” Zwahr said. “They do it to bring more into the classrooms for the students they’re teaching. The students who come after them benefit, too.”

LUCINDA BREEDING-GONZALES can be reached at 940-566-6877 and via Twitter at @LBreedingDRC.

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