A survey of book complaints and removals at Lexington County school districts

Posted 11/2/23

The trend of local school districts reviewing and often removing books continues. So the Chronicle took a look at the books currently being reviewed in each Lexington County school district and the process the districts are using.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Subscribe to continue reading. Already a subscriber? Sign in

Get 50% of all subscriptions for a limited time. Subscribe today.

You can cancel anytime.

Please log in to continue

Log in

A survey of book complaints and removals at Lexington County school districts


The trend of local school districts reviewing and often removing books continues.

Lexington County School District 2, which covers Cayce, West Columbia and Springdale, has recently reviewed 30 books, with more than half of those having been removed at the discretion of a principal or a review committee, while Chapin High teacher Mary Wood gained the attention of national news outlets following the backlash she faced for teaching Ta-Nehisi Coates’ memoir “Between the World and Me,” including accusations of teaching critical race theory.

Such developments continue  to drive headlines locally and statewide – with the S.C. Department of Education recently pushed to take the authority for choosing books and other materials unto itself and away from local school districts – so the Chronicle took a look at the books currently being reviewed in each Lexington County school district and the process the districts are using.

Lexington County School District 1

District 1 covers 16 elementary schools, eight middle schools and five high schools in and around the Town of Lexington, serving nearly 28,000 students.

The district has received one request to review instructional materials since August of last year, when a middle school parent requested a review of “The Blood Between Us” by Zac Brewer, citing concerns about the book containing inappropriate material for that age.

After committee reviews at the school and district level, the book was limited to eighth graders.

“The process for addressing concerns with instructional and library materials starts at the school level,” the district told the Chronicle. “Concerns with library books often can be resolved by adding notes to a student's library account regarding the topics or titles that a parent doesn't wish for their student to access.”

According to the district policy, any parent, legal guardian or citizen may lodge a complaint against any book or instructional material being used in the school system.

Lexington County School District 2

District 2 covers six elementary schools, three middle schools and a middle-school-level creative arts academy, two high schools and an innovation center for high school/early college programs. It has nearly 9,000 students.

[Online copy corrected.]

This district has received by far the most complaints about books within the county, with a wave of removals stoked by complaints by a group known as PACE (Parents Advocating for Children’s Education), which has been addressing what it sees as problems in the district.

Eight books have been removed by principals in the district since August 2022  – “Court of Silver Flames” by Sarah J. Maas, “Doing It – Let’s Talk about Sex” by Hannah Witton, “Flamer” by Mike Curato, “It’s Perfectly Normal” by Robie H. Harris, “Last Night at the Telegraph Club” by Malinda Lo, “Me and White Supremacy – Young Read” by Layla F. Saad, “RISE UP!  How You Can Join The Fight Against White Supremacy” by Crystal Marie Fleming and “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison.

A district committee has additionally voted to remove 12 books from within the district –  “Assassination Classroom” by Yusei Matsui, “Born Ready” by Jodie Patterson, “Both Sides Now” by Peyton Thomas, “George” by Alex Gino, “She, He, They, Them” by Rebecca Stanborough, “Stamped (For Kids)” by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds, “The Witch Boy” by Molly Ostertag, “They She He Me: Free to Be!” by Matthew Smith-Gonzalez and Maya Christina Gonzalez, “This Book is Anti-Racist” by Tiffany Jewell, “Too Bright to See” by Kyle Lukoff, “Trans+: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You” by Karen Rayne and Kathryn Gonzales and “Unicorn Playlist” by Dana Simpson.

That committee, which has the first word on what books will be removed at the district level, has voted to retain nine books that came before it during that time. An appeal has been filed for each of those, with the school board having the final word on those appeals. Only two of these books – “A Good Kind of Trouble” by Lisa Moore Ramee and “The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person” by Frederick Joseph – haven’t received a final ruling on whether they would be removed.

Two of the nine – “Grown” by Tiffany D. Jackson  and “Tilt” by Ellen Hopkins were removed by the board

Three – “Bathe the Cat” by Alice B. McGinty, “Ellen Outside the Lines” by A. J. Sass and “Woke – A Young Poet’s Call to Justice” by Elizabeth Acevedo, Mahogany L. Browne, and Olivia Gatwood – were retained on appeal.

Three others – “Me and White Supremacy” by Layla Saad, “The Passing Playbook” by Isaac Fitzsimons and “The Hate You Give” by Angie Thomas – were retained for 11th and 12th grade only.

“District committees review books against criteria including the book's purpose and the value of the whole, its alignment with district material selection guidelines, and a variety of reviews and perspectives from regional and national sources, as well as any awards and recognitions the book has received,” a district official said.

Lexington County District 3

District 3 consists of one primary, elementary, middle and high school and serves the Batesburg-Leesville area. It has nearly 2,000 students.

According to McKenzie Taylor, Lexington 3’s director of public information and community relations, the district only reviewed and removed one book since August 2022, that book being “Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You" by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds,” with it being removed that November.

The evaluation was conducted by a review committee, in accordance with district policy for assessing and removing questioned materials.

“The book is designated as nonfiction according to the Library of Congress cataloging system. However, throughout the book, the committee noted examples of information that is author opinion or conjecture. In the reconsideration process recommended by the S.C. State Department of Education, criteria number 6 states that works should provide ‘validity, accuracy, objectivity, currency and appropriateness of text,’” Taylor explained. “The committee found the inaccuracies and lack of objectivity contrary to the purpose of a nonfiction text source and recommended removal of the book from circulation at B-L Middle and B-L High Schools.”

The committee that reviews materials that have received a complaint is tasked with reading the materials in their entirety and completing their review and issuing a report within 15 days. The school board determines the appeal process if necessary.

Lexington County School District 4

District 4 covers one elementary school, one middle school, one high school, one primary school, an intermediate school and one freshman academy in the Swansea area. It serves about 3,500 students.

Lisa Ingram, public relations and benefits coordinator for the district, said the district hasn’t had any requests to review and remove books within the district since August 2022.

When it does receive such complaints, district policy dictates that it will be reviewed by committee at the school and district level, both of which are conducted within 10 days of receiving the complaint.

Any appeals of these decisions at the school and district level go through the school board.

Lexington-RichlandSchool District 5

District 5 spans two counties and covers 13 elementary schools, three middle schools, four high schools, one center for advanced technical studies (high school level), one academy, one virtual school and one intermediate school in the vicinity of Irmo and Chapin. It serves more than 17,000 students.

According to the district’s website, one challenge has been received and settled since August 2022, against “Black Is a Rainbow Color” by Angela Joy. The complaints against Ta-Nehisi Coates’ memoir “Between the World and Me” were about the lesson that included the book. The school district has since shut down the lesson in question.

Per a report, a district committee deemed “Black Is a Rainbow Color” to be acceptable and appropriate.

One other book, “A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sarah J Maas, has been challenged since, with that challenge still pending.

During the school board’s Oct. 23 meeting, Superintendent Akil Ross brought forward that five out of nine members on the district committee reviewing the book had asked for an extension for reviewing the challenged material. Ross was in support of the extension and asked the board to grant them until Nov. 30.

The district first looks to settle complaints against books through informal conferences with principals, school librarians and teachers before the complaint is formally filed. A review committee appointed by the superintendent reads the materials in their entirety and completes the review and issues a report within 30 days after the receipt of the complaint, with the materials being withdrawn from the district during the evaluation.

Appeals are handled by the school board, which has the final word.

Board member Elizabeth Barnhardt questioned if the length of the book, which is 656 pages, is the reason why the committee wants an extension, which Ross confirmed, expressing concern about the committee having an incomplete review if an extension was not granted.

“If an author decided to bring a case against the district … and says ‘there were concerns that you didn't follow your own policy in allowing the members of the review committee to review all materials,’” the superintendent said.

Board members were divided on whether to grant the extension.

Rebecca Blackburn Hines, the board chair, said the board would just be encouraging excuses by granting the extension, and that’s not acceptable.

The board ultimately voted 4-2 not to grant the extension, with Kimberly Snipes and Kevin Scully being the only members of the board in favor of the extension; Mike Satterfield did not vote.

lexington county schools, school books, book bans, sc educational materials, chapin high school, columbia students


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here