Seven books pulled from four schools in Pender County

Last month, a group asked the district to review a list of 40 books
Seven books pulled from four schools in Pender County
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 11:46 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 22, 2023 at 6:56 AM EDT
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PENDER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Several books are permanently off shelves in some Pender County schools’ libraries after a group called a list of 40 books into question.

“None of the books on this list were challenged by any parent of anyone that goes to the school so because of that, we weren’t looking at Policy 3210 which is our reconsideration of instructional material policy so none of those were being reviewed for the purposes of banning at any time,” said Craig Lawson, director of Digital Learning and Media.

The group Concerned Citizens of Pender County asked for 40 of the books to be removed. The topics range from the LGBTQ community to self-harm and suicide, though the group behind the review list says they’re concerned some may contain child pornography.

“It’s concerning to me that we have prize-winning literature that is written by Nobel laureates like the example of Toni Morrison that is being removed,” said Jacob Borin, who graduated from a high school in the district in 2020.

Borin was among the 13 people who spoke in opposition to the books’ removal during Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. In the end, however, it was not board members who had the final say.

“Each school is in charge and responsible for their own collection to not only go over things prior to purchase but also with that policy to review those things on a continual basis,” said Lawson.

Ten schools found copies of some books under review on their shelves. While some schools chose to keep all the books in question, four schools chose to remove a total of seven titles from their libraries. Leaders have not shared the reasons why for each title but Lawson did say that one was removed simply because it had not been checked out in several years.

“I’m not really appeased and I’m not really content with the answer we got,” said Borin. “The original issue was that an outside political group made this proposition and we’ve just seen tonight that we have books that have been removed. I think that opens a door for groups to come in and expect that.”

While one school may opt to remove a title, another may choose to keep it in their inventory.

Burgaw Middle School removed three of four books, including “A Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, “Sold” by Patricia McCormick, and “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie.

Pender High School reviewed 18 books and removed only one, “A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sarah J. Maas.

Topsail Middle School reviewed six titles and removed three, including “Go Ask Alice” written by an anonymous author, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie and “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein.

West Pender Middle School had two titles under review and decided to remove one, “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher.

Some schools have not completed their reviews, including Cape Fear Middle School, Heide Trask High School and Topsail Middle School.

Books that educators decided to keep were returned to the library upon the completion of the review.