Nampa School Board President Discusses Decision to Remove Books

For Nampa School Board President Jeff Kirkman, the decision to remove books goes beyond simply wanting to remove books from libraries.

NAMPA, Idaho — Since early May, the community of Nampa and surrounding areas has been debating the Nampa School District’s decision to remove 22 books from the shelves of the district library. The decision was made at a council meeting on May 9, where the five-member school board elected to remove the disputed books brought to the council’s attention.

At the time of the removal, some of the disputed books were still being reviewed for possible content that some parents deemed inappropriate due to “pornographic” content.

The decision was met with an emotional reaction from both supporters of the decision and critics. Those who oppose the removal of books argue that it censors necessary subjects with which students should engage. Serious issues to discuss, including sexual assault, violence and adult relationships, were in the books that some parents said went too far for the classroom.

For the first time since the deletions began, Nampa School Board Chairman Jeff Kirkman spoke with KTVB about the vote to delete the books, the process leading up to the decision, and the next steps in the discussion.

Kirkman said the rationale for his “yes” vote to remove the books list “forever” isn’t as simple as simply wanting to get rid of the books. He said that, for him, it comes down to the process, which he found inconsistent.

“During this decision or during this period of time after the discussion, an administrator made this motion to permanently delete the books and when he added the word ‘forever’ at the last second, it kind of pissed me off. caught off guard,” Kirkman said. “So now I’m starting to think that when I vote it’s really going to make a difference, this piece forever, because my thought, for me personally, was to temporarily remove these books so we can put a process in place. Let’s stop everything, because that’s really what was happening.

“There was a lot of fighting, we have to get it out, we have to let it go. Let’s take that out. Let’s take that out. Well, I just wanted to say, let’s take a break. So that was what I intended to do with my vote, was to remove those books, put the process on hold, work with the district staff, put in place a very good procedure that everyone knew.

Kirkman said the review process for disputed books was not consistent.

“There was some sort of process in place, but really nothing concrete that we could say, ‘Here, Mr. Parent, here’s the process working.’ It was a problem for the administrators,” Kirkman said. “We wanted to make sure that there was a really concrete process in place and that’s why I spoke about it during this working session. Let’s present this to a board and get public feedback. Let’s go to this public meeting of this public meeting and work through this process.

Some of the comments received by Kirkman concerned the wording used in the public meeting to describe the withdrawal, such as for “forever”. He said the subject could be reintroduced.

“To be honest with you, there are books on this list that shouldn’t be on it. They shouldn’t be removed from libraries, but for me at that time to make that decision, ‘yes’, to remove them, they weren’t about specific books,” Kirkman said. “It’s was like, here’s what we know, the books that are in question, let’s just take them out. Put a procedure in place and then run all those books through that process and all the other books that might come up.”

There are comments from the community accusing the Nampa School Board of not wanting students to talk about difficult topics like sexual assault, rape, sex and violence in general.

Some parents have spoken out, saying these “difficult” topics are very important and need to be talked about by young adults. Kirkman said he hears those comments and now it’s hard to find a balance.

“I think that’s why it’s really important to keep the conversation going with parents. ‘How do you want it to look like? Do you want every time a piece of content pops up in a classroom, we have to shut it all down, reach out to parents, get their input? Do we opt-in? Are we opting out?’ These conversations aren’t new, but if we did this, and I’m just thinking in the future, if we stopped everything so we could get the parents, who again have to be involved to ask these questions, we won’t go never have time to teach,” Kirkman said. “Is it the school’s responsibility to teach arithmetic, reading, writing – those traditional basic school subjects? I say yes.

“Is it the parents’ responsibility to teach their children about sex? I say yes. I take that responsibility with my own children. Do they have to be exposed to all this other trauma, all this other stuff? Yes, they do. But, a school, is it the right place to do it? Is the classroom the right place to do it? Yeah. I don’t know where that line is, but that’s why we continually have conversations with people in the community.

Reaction to the book’s removal included local bookstores stocking the removed books as well as community efforts to provide the books in question to interested students and families. Kirkman said he had no problem with the effort.

“I have no problem with that. I think it’s fantastic. It’s another opportunity for people to get the books that aren’t available or maybe aren’t available in public libraries,” Kirkman said. “I know a lot of them do this to make a statement, which again is fine with me, I have no problem with that, but it’s a great way for people to get access to books they might not otherwise have access to in libraries. So I don’t have a problem with that at all.”

The Nampa School Board is scheduled to meet next week. They hope to begin a process of creating a new system for challenge books in the future. Kirkman said the goal is to do this as soon as possible.

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About Joey J. Hott

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