Education Department handling school book concerns on case-by-case basis

DES MOINES — The legislative liaison for the state Board of Education says there isn’t one general set of instructions to schools for removing books from school libraries.

Liaison Eric St. Clair was asked about the new laws that prohibit publications that depict sex acts and the teaching about gender identity. “We get feedback from the field, which is helpful in terms of what perhaps we thought was clear and isn’t clear. And as we get that feedback we review it on a case-by-case basis and determine how to appropriately respond,” St. Clair says.

He was asked if there is a general set of guidelines they use to respond to districts. “It depends on the situation, and how it would be best addressed,” he says.

Board president John Roberts says he’s also getting feedback. “Talking to educators, there’s a lot of confusion, I know people in the field that I’ve talked with, are looking for the DE (Department of Education) or for somebody who provides direction, because right now people are and neither guessing what is right or wrong and not being a violation of the law,” he says.

Roberts says the law doesn’t take effect until the first of the year — but there is confusion now as districts try to address the issue. “Anything that the DE can do to help alleviate some of that confusion would be more than welcome,” he says.

The law also requires school districts to make available a comprehensive list of all books available to students in school libraries on their website.