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Okaloosa School Board updates policy on challenging books or educational materials

On Monday, August 28, 2023, the Okaloosa County School Board held a public hearing to discuss and seek feedback on the proposed amendments to the current School Board Policy 03-05, […]

On Monday, August 28, 2023, the Okaloosa County School Board held a public hearing to discuss and seek feedback on the proposed amendments to the current School Board Policy 03-05, titled “Procedure for Handling Criticism of Library Books or Educational Material.”

  • The amendments primarily aimed at making sure that the policy aligns with current legislative changes and the State Board of Education rules. Additionally, the purpose was also to update statutory references and bring in technical corrections for clarity.

The core modifications to the policy revolve around:

  • Updating the Evaluation Process: Changes in the policy now ensure that it mirrors the statutory and State Board of Education rule changes concerning the materials evaluation process.
  • Media Review Committee Membership: The proposed amendments shed light on the composition of the school-based Media Review Committee, ensuring transparency in its establishment.
  • Open Meeting Provisions: The policy now makes it mandatory for meetings convened to address objections about specific materials to be open to the public, aligning with §286.011, Florida Statutes.
  • Removal of Challenged Materials: One notable change dictates that any material which faces an objection based on specific criteria, detailed in §1006.28(2)(a)(2)(b)(I)-(IV) Florida Statutes, should be removed within five school days from the date of receiving the objection. This material will then remain inaccessible to students until a resolution is reached regarding the objection.

The process

Residents of Okaloosa County or parents of a student attending the school can raise concerns about any book or educational material used in the classroom, housed in the school library, or present on a reading list. 

To lodge their objections, they should utilize the district’s “Request for Review of Media (Book or Educational Material)” form, identified as MIS 1007, and submit it to the school principal.

Once the school principal, along with the school-based Media Review Committee, evaluates the material and evidence provided by the petitioner, the matter will then be escalated to a District Educational Materials Review Committee. This committee will consist of seven members from various educational and community roles.

Finally, after thorough examination and considering the feedback from the school-based Media Review Committee, the District Educational Materials Review Committee will forward its recommendations to the Superintendent of Schools.

  • The Superintendent will then present these recommendations to the School Board, which will make the final decision post a public hearing.

The proposed amendments were passed unanimously by the school board.

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