FCPS book review extended; four titles still up in the air

Jun. 20—A Frederick County Public Schools committee charged with reviewing 35 challenged library books has reached a consensus on all but four of them, officials said.

But the 59 parents, teachers, students and experts on the review committee determined that four of the books require further discussion.

That means the committee's work — and the public release of its decisions — will take longer than expected.

An announcement on the fate of all the books is "expected early in the 2023-24 school year," according to a news release FCPS sent to the community last week. The school year begins Aug. 23.

The review committee was announced in December of last year, after the district received complaints that the books contained inappropriate material. Members convened in March and met five times.

Kevin Cuppett, FCPS' executive director of curriculum, instruction and innovation, wrote in an email Tuesday that the committee has reached a consensus on what should happen to 31 of the books.

The other four books are being assigned to new subcommittees, each of which will have at least 11 members, the FCPS news release said.

Those subcommittees — whose members will be chosen from the existing pool of main committee members — will meet, deliberate and make final recommendations in July.

Three of the four books still in question are novels: "Triangles" by Ellen Hopkins, plus "A Court of Silver Flames" and "Kingdom of Ash" by Sarah J. Maas, FCPS spokesperson Brandon Oland wrote in an email.

The fourth is a nonfiction book called "Let's Talk About It: The Teen's Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human" by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan.

Once committee members have made a final decision on all 35 books, their recommendations will be compiled and delivered to FCPS Deputy Superintendent Mike Markoe.

Markoe, in turn, will make a recommendation to FCPS Superintendent Cheryl Dyson, who has the final say.

Cindy Rose, a former school board candidate who submitted a complaint about the 35 titles, said she compiled the list using ratedbooks.org, which launched a campaign to ban what it deemed to be "pornographic" books from Utah schools, according to its site.

Some of the books on the list have faced similar challenges in school districts across the U.S.

The vast majority of the titles are only available in high school libraries, according to FCPS' online catalogue. Three are available in traditional middle schools, and seven are available at Heather Ridge School, a nontraditional facility for students with behavioral challenges that serves both middle and high schoolers.

The books span a range of genres and subjects. Many are romance novels written for young adults.

The review committee's meetings were closed to the public.

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