SC school chief Ellen Weaver ends ties with librarians’ group over ‘book ban’ stance

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South Carolina’s superintendent of education has ended the state’s relationship with the group representing its school librarians, citing concerns the group had created a “hostile environment” using “politicized rhetoric” to oppose efforts to remove books from school shelves.

Superintendent Ellen Weaver wrote to the S.C. Association of School Librarians on Aug. 25 to inform the professional organization that “the South Carolina Department of Education will formally discontinue any partnerships with SCASL as an organization, effective immediately. “

The association had previously worked with the department to speak on behalf of the state’s school librarians, and collaborated on a number of initiatives, including developing standards and resources for libraries and hosting workshops and town hall-style meetings for the association’s members. The association detailed the 50-year partnership in a reply sent to Weaver on Aug. 31.

Weaver said the organization had shown a “lack of discernment” on the issue by hosting an advocacy toolkit on its website from the American Library Association, testifying about library “censorship” before the teacher recruitment and retention task force, and sending letters to school board members across the state.

That letter “extensively quoted politicized rhetoric from a New York school district employee who states that, ‘districts and boards should probably place more consideration on the emotional well-being of students rather than on attempts to pacify parents,’” Weaver wrote to the association.

The letter “actively erodes the trust and partnership we must build between parents and educators,” Weaver wrote. “In South Carolina, student well-being and parental satisfaction are not opposing interests.”

While Weaver said the state “deeply values” the work of those working in school libraries, the education department in the future will reach out directly to more than 1,000 school librarians about professional development and other efforts.

“Parents are entirely justified in seeking to ensure educational materials presented to their children are age-appropriate and aligned with the overall purpose of South Carolina’s instructional program and standards,” she said. “When SCASL labels those efforts as bans, censorship, or a violation of educators’ intellectual freedom, the result is a more hostile environment which does not serve the needs of students.”

In its response, the librarian association stressed the work it does on behalf of students and parents, including efforts to engage parents in school activities.

We avidly encourage and support parent engagement and volunteering which strengthen schools immeasurably,” the association’s board wrote in a letter. “School librarians regularly plan and lead in literacy nights and events throughout the school year to foster relationships within their school community. In addition, school librarians write grants for traveling exhibits that are open to the community, and expand library collections to provide resources to be inclusive of everyone in the learning community.”

Attempts by The State to contact leaders of the librarian association were not immediately returned.