The fault in our shelves: Library, school boards reviewing teen book relocation policy

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The temperature is being lowered on roiling controversies at the Hamilton County school and library boards that critics say have attracted embarrassing national attention to Fishers.

The Hamilton Southeastern School Board announced Friday it would not seek to replace a politically moderate member at a scheduled special meeting. And the Hamilton East Public Library Board followed by stating it would review its sweeping book relocation practices and reinstate a book by Indiana bestselling author John Green that was removed from the teen section.

John Green book not for adults: Amid backlash, HamCo library puts John Green’s ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ back in teen section

The moves were applauded by Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness, who had previously been silent on the turmoil.

“When dealing with something as complex as the intersection of ensuring appropriate content for children and the freedom and access to written bodies of work, you should tread slowly and cautiously,” Fadness told IndyStar in a written statement Sunday. “I was encouraged by the board’s statement that they are going to reevaluate the current policy. I hope they do, and I hope they engage a broad array of perspectives, political ideologies, and professionals.”

Fadness and the Fishers City Council do not make appointees to the seven-member library board, and the school board members are elected. But the city itself has become the focus of derision by people opposed to aggressive policies being implemented by new politically conservative majorities on both boards.

The book policy sparked outrage last week when the library moved Green’s book, “The Fault in Our Stars,” from the teen to the adult section. In a scathing letter to the library board, Green said he was “horrified,” “infuriated” and “disgusted.”

“It is political theater of the lowest and most embarrassing order and it’s an awful way to have Fishers and Noblesville make national news,” Green said in the email, which he shared on his X/Twitter feed.

Plans to move John Green novel, replace board member, rescinded

Library Board President Laura Alerding said in an email to IndyStar Monday that Green’s book would be put back in the teen section and blamed the relocation on the library staff and its director, who she said misinterpreted the board’s book policy.

Alerding had already announced Friday night that “due to the events of this week, the Board will lead a discussion regarding the book review process and the operational plan to ensure we have the best outcome in the days ahead.”

In addition, school board President Dawn Lang said she would cancel an Aug. 30 special meeting that reportedly had been set to rescind the board’s appointment of Andre Miksha to the library board.

Previous coverage: Meeting over Hamilton East library board appointee is canceled

Instead, she said, the board would concentrate on passing a school funding referendum in the November election.

She did not say whether Miksha’s appointment would be reconsidered after the election.

The previous school board appointed Miksha to the library board last September to fill a vacancy. But the newly elected with four conservatives has been unhappy with his voting record, which included opposition to a policy to relocate books from the children’s section that were deemed harmful.

Miksha, who has two years left on his term, told IndyStar last week Lang wanted to replace him because of his votes.

Fadness said nixing the meeting on Miksha’s seat was the right move.

“I am glad the school board has canceled the board meeting to consider their current library appointment and I was encouraged to hear President Lang say their focus will be exclusively on getting the referendum passed,” the mayor said in his statement.

Implementing library’s new removal policy could cost up to $300K

The new board passed a policy in December to move some books deemed not “age appropriate” from teen shelves to the system’s adult sections in the Noblesville and Fishers libraries.

The review requires librarians and staff to examine thousands of books and is expected to cost the library system serving Fishers and Noblesville up to $300,000.

“Any instance of visual depiction of sexual nudity as described or any level of written description, even incidental, of sexual conduct as described” would necessitate moving a book, the library’s interpretation of the policy reads.

Controversial policy: Hamilton East library has moved nearly 1,000 teen books so far. Here are 5 of them

Removed from the teen section are books on puberty, Captain America comics and Marvel’s Avengers graphic novels along with more typically controversial books such as “Forever,” Judy Blume’s novel of teen love and sexuality.

Meanwhile, a potentially confrontational meeting looms this week at the Noblesville Schools Board. The board will consider whether it should reappoint Alerding, whose term expires at the end of August, to the HEPL board.

Alerding is also a member of the Noblesville School Board.

Call reporter John Tuohy at 317-444-6418. Email at john.tuohy@indystar.com and follow on Twitter  @john_tuohy and Facebook.

Rachel Fradette is a suburban education reporter at IndyStar. Contact her at rfradette@indystar.com or follow her on Twitter at @Rachel_Fradette.

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