Somebody has some ‘splainin’ to do

Well, this is certainly an interesting development.

One of the many parents who is angered by the unilateral decision of Superintendent Hatrick to remove And Tango Makes Three from Loudoun County elementary school libraries has just pointed out to me that the written policy was not followed after all.

According to that written policy, Procedure for Review of Challenged Materials, under § 5-7, D:

1. Either parent of a child enrolled in Loudoun County Schools may state an objection to and request a review of a material or materials used in the instruction of that child or accessible to that child.

2. Requests for review of materials shall be in writing and objections shall be specific as to the materials and reason(s) for the objections.

3. Requests for review shall be made to the principal of the school the child attends. The principal shall appoint a committee of appropriate personnel to review the material and make a recommendation on the disposition of the complaint.

This was done properly (assuming of course, that the complainant’s child actually attends Sugarland Elementary); see the Request for reconsideration of instructional materials, dated May 28, 2007.

4. The principal shall notify the parent who requested review of his/her decision in writing within fifteen school days of receipt of the written request.

This was done properly; see the review committee report, dated June 6, 2007, and letter to the complainant, dated June 12, 2007.

5. The decision of the principal may be appealed in writing to the Division Superintendent, who shall appoint a division review committee to review the materials and make a recommendation on the disposition of the complaint.

6. The Division Superintendent shall notify the parent of his/her decision in writing within fifteen school days of receipt of the written appeal.

7. The decision of the Division Superintendent may be appealed in writing to the School Board, which shall make the final decision to retain or withdraw the challenged material. This decision shall be made within 30 school days of the receipt of the written appeal or as soon thereafter as practicable and shall be made in writing to the parents who requested review.

8. All appeals under this policy must be made within 5 school days of receipt of the decision being appealed. If a decision is not appealed within this time limit, the decision on the request for review shall be final.

Here’s where things get interesting. The complainant’s appeal of the school level review committee decision is dated September 18, 2007. The policy was not, in fact, followed. According to the written policy, the unanimous decision of the Sugarland Elementary review committee to retain the book in general circulation should be final. The district level review committee should never even have been convened – let alone its decision contravened, and let alone that decision applied to ALL elementary schools.

9. All materials in process of being reviewed shall remain in use or circulation until a final decision is reached.

The policy was not only breached once, at the improper appeal of the school level committee decision, but twice: The district level review committee issued its decision on October 3, 2007. The complainant’s appeal to the Superintendent is dated December 28, 2007 – again, well beyond the time limit of five school days allowed by the policy. [Update, 2/29: In re-reading the documents, it’s not clear that the complainant is responding to the October 3rd committee recommendation, or whether she was even made aware of it. This may help to explain Dr. Hatrick’s statement of February 26, in which he refers to his own failure to act within the prescribed time limit, and not the complainant’s. Regardless, the complainant still failed to file her appeal within the time limit, and her September appeal should have been rejected.]

Why was this particular individual allowed to flout the written policy, weak as it is? And why is the LCPS administration pretending that the policy was followed, when they know very well that it was not? Erica Garman asked LCPS spokesman Wayde Byard about the apparent discrepancy, and he indicated that the policy had been followed. I pointed out in the previous post that deliberate misinformation was being spread about the district-level committee vote. At least one School Board member was under the false impression that the vote was 50-50, when in reality it was 9-2-1 in favor of retaining the book.

Who is getting this extra-special treatment from LCPS, and why?

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7 Responses to Somebody has some ‘splainin’ to do

  1. David says:

    It is remarkable, given what we are now finding out.

    The fact that she failed to file her appeal within the required time limit would have given LCPS a very easy way to resolve this issue, which is what I thought they wanted. Did they just not notice? It’s hard to believe, because presumably the time limits are in the policy in order to expedite a resolution and not allow the process to drag on for months the way it did in this case.

    It could be simply an administrative error. It happens. What shouldn’t happen is the apparent attempt to cover it up, and the lying to people.

    Is it possible that Dr. Hatrick is actually an ideologue? I never thought so. My impression has always been that he just tries to avoid controversy. But then, this behavior doesn’t make any sense.

  2. Jon Frankel says:

    Leave aside the question of whether anyone harbored ill motives; that kind of speculation doesn’t move anything forward. The current policy is flawed, and nobody has had experience applying it in practice, which is why the school board is taking up the question of how to revise it going forward in light of this experience. The upshot of these procedural errors should be that the board now has a legitimate and face-saving way of reversing the Superintendent’s determination. The fact that the book was improperly pulled under the current policy is a reason for restoring the book to the library during the weeks or months it would take to hammer out a new policy to handle these situations going forward. I hope people on all sides use these most recent revelations as a face-saving way to back down from the current standoff and to reconsider the book under the new policy with cooler heads.

  3. David says:

    Jon, you’re absolutely right of course. We’ll have to see what happens tonight.

    This distraction from things the School Board should be focused on right now, like the upcoming budget hearings, was just so unnecessary.

    Actually, one of the questions is what other books have been quietly removed under this policy that no one even knows about – that’s one of the flaws in the policy – so we don’t actually know that there has been no experience in applying it. The problem is that the community has had no experience in evaluating it!

  4. Maddy says:

    Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened. A magazine was removed from Simpson Middle School several years ago after a challenge from a parent. Both the school level and district level committees unanimously agreed that the magazine should remain in the library. Dr. Hatrick disregarded these recommendations and the magazine was removed.

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