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Books deemed 'harmful to staff and students' are being removed from region's public school libraries

WRDSB has developed a framework to identify and remove inappropriate or questionable texts

Correction: This article has been corrected. An earlier version stated that the Ottawa Carleton District School Board had removed the book The Lord of the Flies from its curriculum. A school board spokesperson says the book remains available within the board for study.

The Waterloo Region District School Board is undertaking a multi-year review of its library collections to identify and remove any texts deemed “harmful to staff and students.”

Graham Shantz, coordinating superintendent in human resources and equity services outlined the ongoing work during Monday’s board meeting as part of an overview of the board’s 2021-2022 strategic and operational plan.

“We recognize as our consciousness around equity, oppression work and anti-racist work has grown, we recognize some of the texts in some of the collections that we have are not appropriate at this point,” Shantz said. He explained how the board developed a framework last year for reviewing its collections in elementary and secondary school libraries.

“We’ve done a great job over the years of adding collections that promote the diversity both of our workforce and our students and our community as a broader point, but we haven’t spent the concentrated effort that we need to spend on ensuring that we’re removing inappropriate or texts that are questionable and don’t have the pedagogical frameworks that we need,” Shantz said.

The effort is specific to library collections and doesn’t consider materials or literature taught in classrooms, he said.

Shantz said the process to edit school libraries will involve educating teachers about the board’s framework so they can consider removing texts from their classroom collections.

“Part of the work will allow teachers to expand their consciousness, utilizing the framework to evaluate what they have in their classrooms,” Shantz said.

Earlier this year, an Ottawa-Carleton District School Board advisory committee on equity agreed with a student who said The Lord of the Flies themes were outdated and too focused on white, male power structures.

Lord of the Flies remains part of the board's option of study, a school board spokesperson said.

Other books recently removed from Canadian school libraries and/or curriculums in response to complaints about racist, homophobic, or misogynistic language and themes, include Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale.

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Doug Coxson

About the Author: Doug Coxson

Doug has been a reporter and editor for more than 25 years, working mainly in Waterloo region and Guelph.
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