Andover Public Schools have denied two separate requests to remove four books from school libraries since 2018, according to documents released in response to a public records request from Andover News.
Andover News requested the documents after the Boston Globe reported last month reported ten Massachusetts school districts removed or restricted books in libraries after parents complained. Some districts have received dozens of requests in recent years, and some have bowed to pressure to censor content in their libraries. Like Andover, the decisions are made by committees consisting of parents, principals, teachers, and librarians.
The documents released by APS Monday reveal some insight as to why the titles were challenged, and why the school district decided to keep the books in circulation:
Last March, a middle school parent challenged Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin for its use of profanity and sexual references. The committee ruled that the book is not objectionable and a majority said it was appropriate for middle schoolers.
The committee also opted to keep Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie in circulation when it met in March, saying both were appropriate for middle school students, despite the complaint noting profanity and sexual references.
In 2018, a High Plains Elementary School parent wanted An Interview with Harry the Tarantula by Leigh Ann Tyson removed from the school library. It was the only complaint since the book was adopted at High Plains and other APS schools in 2024. The reason the request was submitted was not clear, but the committee tasked with reviewing the book voted to keep the title in circulation.
The school committee adopted a policy last March allowing anyone to file a formal complaint about books used in the district’s curriculum. Those complaints are reviewed by a committee that includes the principal of the building where the book is used, a librarian, a teacher, a currciulum specialist, a parent, and others. The committee members are expected to review the material. The recommendation committee’s “recommendation is to be an objective evaluation of the material within the scope of the library’s selection/collection policy.”