Parents speak at Bristow Board of Education meeting on graphic reading material in schools

A packed crowd showed up to Monday night’s Board of Education Meeting at the Chuck West Field House in Bristow as multiple parents spoke up about a growing concern for the material that the school reportedly has in its libraries.

Books that they say depict graphic sexual abuse, rape, drug use, and violent situations are available in the school libraries and have to continued to remain, despite multiple attempts to have them removed. A list of these books, provided to Sapulpa Times by one of the parents, contains many titles that are frequently found on other schools’ “banned books” lists.

Two of the parents—Kaycee Batschelett and Brittney Bishop—read excerpts from two of the books on the list, eliciting disapproving groans from other parents in the audience. Batschelett placed the blame squarely on the school board and the school’s administration, who she says have known about the situation as far back as 2015. “This falls on you,” she said, addressing the school board and Superintendent Curtis Shelton. “It is under your control. We want age-appropriate, topic-appropriate material with proven educational value.”

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Brittney Bishop quoted State Title 25, saying that “any instruction or presentations regarding sexuality in courses other than sex education are not permitted without parental consent.” Bishop also expressed concern for the well-being of the students that were reading these sorts of books. “With the challenges that our school demographic already faces, why would this administration not only allow, but provide additional distractions for them?”  she asked. She also blames the administration for not enforcing their own policy in their handbook: “Changing the policy in your handbook without enforcing it is not enough,” she said.

Brittney Bishop speaks at Bristow Schools Board of Education meeting.

Jason Bishop was the last to speak and read a passage from the book “The Hiding Place: The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom.” Using a portion of it to illustrate his own point, he said, “we are asking our children to carry loads that are way too heavy for them. They should not be forced, as children, to see and feel the world through the lens of adults.”

All three finished their speeches to loud applause by the others in the room. They were given three minutes each to speak, and there was no discussion or action taken as a result of their speeches. The rest of the meeting continued with no interruption as the school board read through their agenda items.

The three parents say they met with Superintendent Shelton and the high school principal three weeks ago. They say they felt like the situation was being swept under the rug, and that their concerns were not being addressed. “They seemed annoyed that we were there,” Batschelett said. “They asked us, ‘Why are you here? Why don’t you talk to a teacher?’” She says that the school’s handbook stipulates that the responsibility for the selection of library and classroom media center materials rests with the Board of Education. The superintendent would be responsible for developing regulations governing the selection of the materials for school libraries.

Superintendent Shelton told Sapulpa Times in a phone interview that they were not ignoring the concerns of the parents. “I assure you we don’t sweep things under the rug,” he said. “We will deal with them and move forward. It may not happen as fast as some would like, but we do deal with them and move forward.”

Shelton says the school revised its policies in the 2017-2018 school year in order to provide a process for reconsideration of materials. The forms for reconsideration of library and media center materials are available at the principal’s office of each school.

Batschelett also believes the process for submitting a book for review is flawed. “There’s a book review form, each book submitted for review has to be on the form, and once it’s been reviewed, it cannot be reviewed again for five years, regardless of the result of the review,” she says.

According to Jason and Brittney Bishop, the situation has come up before, and at one point, several years ago, prompted a long-time teacher to resign because she didn’t feel the administration was handling the situation properly. 

Jason Bishop said they were careful not to name any teachers or librarians because they didn’t believe they deserved the blame. “It’s not about teachers, it’s not about books—it’s about failure in leadership.”

A partial list of the books includes:

  • George
  • Broken Things
  • I Was Here
  • The Way I Used To Be
  • Before I Fall
  • Hold Me Closer
  • Bad For You
  • The Lovely Bones
  • Symptoms of Being Human
  • Infandous
  • Crank
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian
  • Looking For Alaska
  • Mastif
  • Burned
  • All American Boys
  • The Hate You Give
  • Thirteen Reasons Why
  • Bless Me Ultima