Teen creates petition for students to take part in reviewing school library materials

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Posted at 4:36 PM, Feb 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-20 23:09:38-05

HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Books across the state are being challenged in school libraries.

Before a book is banned, parents, teachers and librarians can review the material to see if the book is appropriate for students, but so far no students sit on the review committee.

Julia Garnett is trying to change this by making sure students' voices are heard.

Garnett is a junior at Hendersonville High School, and she's learning a lesson that's taking place outside the classroom.

"These decisions that are made about books affect us the most, because, at the end of the day, we're the people that are able to go in the library, and we want to find books that represent us and represent all communities — not just ourselves — to be able to learn and grow as people," Garnett said.

Garnett used her voice to speak out against the banning of books at last month's school board meeting.

Now, she wants to take it a step further.

"I started this petition because students weren't allowed to be part of the review process for challenged materials at my school. And I really felt that it was important for us to have a voice in this process," Garrett said.

Sumner County School Board's policy says that at each school, the library materials advisory committee is appointed by the school principals.

These committees have already reviewed several books challenged by parents.

The committee consists of a school administrator, teachers, librarians, and parents from that school, but no students.

"A lot of the time, students are kind of overlooked in this process. And I think this petition kind of helped bring us more to light and have adults in this process kind of consider having a student's voice in this process," said Garnett.

The 17-year-old's passion helped land her a spot on her school's committee where she says they soon will review the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

"For this book to be challenged is really frustrating," Garnett said. "But I'm glad that we're able to review it, sit down, talk about it, and be able to discuss it."

She said this fight is not over until high school students across the district have a seat at the decision-making table.

Garnett said she reached out to every school board and a few got back to her saying they will try to add language in their policies to include students to be appointed to the library materials advisory committees.

She said this is a step in the right direction.

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