Intellectual Freedom Resources

Intellectual Freedom Resources

Prepared by the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the California School Library Association, 2004

Resource links
The CSLA Intellectual Freedom Resource Page has been prepared to assist librarians and other school personnel in dealing with intellectual freedom issues at their school sites. It is a collection of documents, which can be used as guides when developing policies and procedures for selecting materials, responding to censorship challenges, dealing with pressure groups, and promoting access to all types of material and information for all school library users. Many of the sample documents are presented in PDF format. They may be saved and edited as needed when preparing your own documents.

Policy Statement
We support and are in agreement with the philosophy statements contained in the Library Bill of Rights (American Library Association).

We support the principles of intellectual freedom, which are inherent in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and believe these principles must be protected and preserved to assist the growth of informed and responsible citizens.

We support policies that assure the confidentiality of library records.

We support free access to ideas in a free society and freedom of choice.

We support the establishment of policies and procedures by the legal governing board of a school district which provide for selection of library materials by certificated library media personnel in conjunction with other certificated staff, which will reflect the varied groups in America so that students may develop the ability to form judgments based on full information, and which support the curriculum, as well as encourage growth not only in knowledge, but in literary, cultural, and aesthetic appreciations.

We support selection policies that provide for a wide range of materials appropriate for the user, placing principle above personal opinion and reason above prejudice.

We support the establishment of local school board procedures for dealing with concerns of the school community regarding allegedly inappropriate instructional materials in a fair, professional, and timely manner.

We support the right of parents or guardians to monitor the reading, viewing, and listening activities of their own children.

CSLA makes the above statement to make known its position of support of intellectual freedom, and to make known its desire to maintain library media programs with integrity throughout the educational systems of California.

Planning Your District Policy and Procedures Manual
School districts will be better prepared for dealing with challenges if guidelines for policy are very specific, challengers are given their fair say, and such challenged materials are examined on the merits of the resource.

Thoughts and Tips on the Topic of Challenges to Resources
Here are ten simple things to remember when confronted with the possibility of a challenge to materials in your collection. Included are the names and phone numbers of professional organizations you can call for help.

Additional Resources

Background information

Ten Guidelines for Dealing with Challenges

School districts will be better prepared for dealing with challenges if guidelines for policy are very specific, challengers are given their fair say, and such challenged materials are examined on the merits of the resource. The last thing that should happen in a challenge process is that an adversarial role is established between concerned parties – principal vs. parent, or library media teacher vs. parent, or administration, etc. The People for the American Way have stated numerous times that review policies tend to give the benefit of the doubt to the original selection process that put the books in the school in the first place.

Here are a few guidelines to follow:

  • Don’t allow the challenged material to be removed from the library by a school administrator or staff member during the review process.
  • Policy should describe precisely the steps in the review process including who is responsible at each step and also any appeal process in your district.
  • Complaints should be resolved at the lowest organizational level if possible – first with the library media teacher, then with the principal and so forth. The school board should be the court of last resort.
  • Committees to review challenges should have a broad representation, including teachers, parents, administration and library staff.
  • School board policies of the challenge review process should be available to every teacher and administrator in the district.
  • There should also be a written rationale prepared by classroom teachers and library media teacher for using specific works of literature in the classroom, which may also be available in the library.
  • The district superintendent should be informed of the formal complaint immediately.
  • Members of the review committee should have copies of the challenged materials.
  • The decision of the review committee should be binding for the district but if the challenger is not satisfied with the decision, a request may be made to place the matter on a future school board agenda.
  • Remember, emotion shown by school personnel during the review process will only accelerate the adversarial position by the complainant.

Thoughts and Tips on the Topic of Challenges to Resources

  • Be calm.
  • Become informed on opposing viewpoints.
  • Follow established district forms and policies.
  • Have a file with copies of pertinent forms and information
  • Keep administration informed.
  • Refer written complaint to chair of review committee or other assigned personnel.
  • Communicate professionally with complainant about committee meetings and results.
  • Defend the principle of the freedom to read and the professional responsibility of teachers and librarians.
  • Don’t let media turn problems into an event (easy to say, but when it happens, just keep following your district’s policy and procedures).
  • Keep informed of community groups.
  • Call colleagues and professional organizations for information and help:

American Library Association
American Association of School Librarians
Office of Intellectual Freedom
Intellectual Freedom Committee chair and members
National Education Association
National Council of Teachers of English
California School Library Association