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School subcommittee to review book removal policy this month

In response to the previous removal of the book, “Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice,” from North Attleborough Public School libraries in May 2023, Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Antonucci announced that the Curriculum Policy Subcommittee to review the procedure of removing books in school libraries.

Antonuccci announced at a School Committee meeting on Feb. 6 the administration would begin re-evaluating this policy during its public meeting on Feb. 28 after several residents and elected officials expressed outrage over the book’s removal. The book has been returned to circulation after Antonucci reversed the previous decision in January.

“The subcommittee is ready to take that on,” Antonucci said. “Stay tuned.”

The original decision to remove the book stemmed from a complaint the school received from a parent of a Martin Elementary student. According to the complaint obtained by the North Star Reporter through a Freedom of Information Act request, those that made the request objected to the book’s circulation based on its written content.

The book, written by Mahogany L. Browne, Olivia Gatwood and Elizabeth Acevedo, consists of poems about civil justice, racial justice, environmental justice, body positivity and other forms of activism—all authored by women of color. 

The complainant, who remains anonymous, wrote that they objected to the book’s poems that touch upon concepts of racism and intersectionality. They further wrote that young children should not be taught these concepts as it would cause “division.”

“This book oversteps the boundaries of simple inclusion,” the request reads. “It calls: elementary school children to raise ‘fists in the air’ and ‘talk back’ as small social justice warriors promoting an extreme and divisive ideology.”

After receiving the complaint, Antonucci said that he and a committee consisting of a principal, a teacher, a parent, a librarian and the elementary school curriculum coordinator decided it would be best to move the book from the library to the teacher’s resource library, because it did not match Martin Elemetnary’s intended age group.

Upon hearing that the book was removed, there was outrage over the decision. In response, Antonucci announced in an email on Jan. 23 that the book would return to library shelves immediately and that the procedure to remove books would be reviewed.

“Based on those discussions, it has become evident that we missed the mark, and it is clear that our policy and procedure needs to be re-evaluated,” Antonucci said in his statement. “I have determined that the right course of action is to restore the book’s place in our library.”

Despite the book’s return to shelves, many residents still expressed their concerns with its removal during the School Committee meeting.

Nadine Fowler, a teacher at North Attleborough Middle School, said she was not proud of the district’s decision to remove the book. Fowler said her family is multi-racial and said that the removal of a book written by people of color sends a negative message to children of color that they cannot have books that “look like them.”

“I know I’m not the only person who feels like this,” Fowler said. “It is something that I think needs serious transparency and ultimately, policy review for something I can be proud of again.”

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