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Columbia County Board of Education Didn't Reject Novels. It Unapproved Them

Correspondence revealed in an Open Records Request shows that the Columbia County Board of Education, not the Novel Committee of literature teachers it assembled to make book recommendations, is responsible for preventing children from receiving copies of Dear Martin, Regeneration and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time for classroom use and even borrowing them for personal use from the schools' libraries.

The committee had more or less completed its extensive work and expected the Board of Education to approve the list of novels it selected so that schools could place orders for use in the classroom when school began in August 2019.

On June 27, 2019, a Board of Education administrator e-mailed the members of the Novel Committee asking them to "list the words that are used because there's a significant difference between 'damn' and many other profane words. We also need to identify how often they are being used. ... If there is a particular offensive word, we need to provide a page number. ... In the areas of potential concern, we need to list page numbers."

On September 6, the same administrator informed the Novel Committee members that "after extensive reviews, the following books will not be submitted to the BOE for approval due to concerns regarding some of the content."

On September 25, after the BOE approved the truncated list of novels, the Language Arts department heads were informed of their obligation to assign education professionals to redact words from novels they purchase. They were also informed that parental permission must be obtained prior to having a student read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

In a Freudian slip, the administrator listed the three aforementioned novels as "Unapproved." That is entirely accurate. The Novel Committee, educators with direct contact with students, approved the three books. CCBOE, whose public rationale for excluding them doesn't pass the smell test, unapproved them.

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