Edmond Superintendent Responds After District Ordered To Remove Books From Library Shelves

Edmond Schools Superintendent Dr. Angela Grunewald said the district's accreditation is being put in jeopardy after the Oklahoma State Board of Education ordered the school to remove two books: The Glass Castle and The Kite Runner.

Wednesday, February 21st 2024, 2:40 pm

By: News 9


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Edmond Public Schools is petitioning the Oklahoma State Supreme Court to step in after the state board of education ordered the district to remove books from its high school shelves or face an accreditation downgrade.

Edmond Schools Superintendent Dr. Angela Grunewald said the district's accreditation is being jeopardized after the Oklahoma State Board of Education ordered the school to remove two books: The Glass Castle and The Kite Runner.

Related: Edmond Public Schools Announces Okla. Supreme Court Petition Against Department Of Education, Walters Responds

Grunewald said in an exclusive interview with News 9 on Wednesday morning that the district has received positive feedback for Tuesday's petition.

"Our community supports this action and supports the local control in the library," Grunewald said.

She said two common misconceptions have been that the books are available to students younger than high school age and that parents can not intervene.

"If there are books a parent does not want a student to read, they can notify the librarian and we can flag that account. And the librarian will always check to make sure they're not reading a specific book a parent has requested that they not read," Grunewald said.

Walters has said in the past that an Edmond committee member had said these books are inappropriate for kids below high school age, but the district made the books available to younger students.

“No, [these] books are not. These are just in the high school library,” Grunewald said.

Grunewald says that the decision to file a petition is a way to figure out the best path forward.

“We received a letter January 19, from the State Department of Education that said we needed to remove these books from our library, or appear at the state board. And so that is when we decided we had to either remove the books, or appear and we didn't feel like either path was the correct path,” Grunewald said. “So that is when the board decided to ask the Supreme [Court for] some clarification to decide which one is the best.”

The books, in the meantime, are still in circulation at the high school library.

“If we are told we have to remove them, we will. But if not, then they will stay there,” Grunewald said.

The existing policy to remove books from the library at Edmond Public Schools involves a form that anyone can fill out asking for a book to be reviewed. It is then reviewed by a committee at site level. 

“One person cannot make that decision for the entire district, or for the entire library,” Grunewald said. “That's the choice of a library is you can go in and choose what books you want, and what books you don't want. And that's protected in the library that one person can't make that decision.”

Grunewald says that in the six years she has been superintendent, she has not had a complaint filed about either book.

Edmond Public Schools is hoping to hear back from the Oklahoma Supreme Court within the next month with a decision on the books.

An attorney for the district said the question extends beyond these two titles.

"It’s about whether the state board of education has the authority to decide what’s pornographic," Andrew Fugitt, the attorney representing Edmond Public Schools, said.

However, State Superintendent Ryan Walters said Edmond Public Schools is embracing pornography by including the books on library shelves.

"This is unbelievable, we've seen Edmond Public Schools push radical, left-wing policies before, but this is incredible for them to go this far," Walters said.

The books in question have particular passages within them that have been deemed controversial.

The Kite Runner, a book about a boy's traumatic upbringing in the Middle East, depicts a scene in which a teen boy, who later joins the Taliban, commits rape against a minor.

According to the American Library Association, The Glass Castle was the 17th most banned and challenged book in the United States. The Kite Runner was the 11th most challenged.

Deer Creek Schools Superintendent Dr. Jason Perez issued the following statement of support for Edmond Public Schools: 

“On behalf of the Deer Creek Schools administration, I am issuing this statement of support for Edmond Public Schools and their decision to petition the Oklahoma Supreme Court against the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Every public school district in our state has a duly elected board of education, chosen by the patrons of their respective communities, to represent the interests and values of those they serve. This level of local control is a right belonging to public school parents in Oklahoma and should not be undermined by any agency at the state level. Edmond Public Schools, as with the majority of all school districts, have their own policies and procedures to address patron concerns. When districts are not given the opportunity to intervene at the local level, it undermines these policies as well as the authority of the governing body elected by its community. We stand with Edmond Public Schools and encourage other boards, superintendents, teachers, parents and students to support their efforts. Our communities deserve local control and our school districts need the first opportunity to address issues as they arise.”


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