'98's Best: School Proposal May Rip Rolling Stone From Library Shelves

Plan would transfer final authority on reading materials from librarian to assistant superintendent.

[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at

1998's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Tuesday, Sept. 22.]

No one is saying that high-school students in a Wisconsin district can't

read Rolling Stone -- but if one

school-board member has his way, teen-agers won't find it or other such

magazines

on the racks of their local school libraries.

Opponents -- including local librarians and the American Civil Liberties

Union -- of the plan to transfer authority over what's allowed in

libraries have charged potential censorship; supporters say they're just

trying to give students access to appropriate material.

During a recent meeting of the Kettle Moraine School District in Wale,

Wis., board member Gary Vose offered a plan that would give the local

assistant superintendent of schools the last word on what graces library

shelves. This would strip school librarians of what has, until now, been

their authority to select library materials.

Critics such as Kettle Moraine High School head librarian Mary Finn said

Vose is trying to skirt a procedure for protesting offensive materials

by, instead, banning them outright. She cited as evidence Vose's criticism

last

year of the Nov. 27, 1997, issue of Rolling Stone, which featured

actors from the late-night comedy show "Saturday Night Live" groping one

another on the cover.

"You can protest any materials in the library," said Finn, who has worked

at Kettle Moraine for eight years. "There is a form that you fill out, and

then a committee would evaluate it. But he didn't do that."

Board spokeswoman and school superintendent Dr. Sarah Jerome did not return

calls about the meeting. Vose could not be reached for comment Tuesday

(Sept. 22), but he was quoted by the Associated Press as saying his

grievance did not concern Rolling Stone in particular.

"It's [about] what kind of material is appropriate for high-school

students," the AP quoted the board member as saying. After viewing

several issues of Rolling Stone, Vose declared some of its content

"pornographic," according to the newswire.

Twenty-eight students and a dozen faculty members attended the meeting to

show their opposition to the plan, according to Kettle Moraine English

teacher Pat Schiele, who also attended the meeting. "A library is a

resource center, and students -- especially students in the '90s walking

into the 21st century -- should be able to find and use as much as is

available to them," Schiele said Tuesday (Sept. 22). "All points of view

must be

presented, which means Rolling Stone should stay on our shelves."

Arguing her point, Finn said librarians are equipped with experience,

training and resources to make decisions about a library's contents that

administration officials do not have.

"It's a lifetime of learning with other libraries and librarians," she

said. "I'm not just buying what I particularly want. I'm buying what's

recommended for high-school libraries."

While stopping short of threatening a lawsuit if the proposal passes, the

local branch of the ACLU did call Vose's plan "a pretext for censorship."

"It looks as if this proposal for new policies is just an excuse that will

allow the censorship of Rolling Stone and perhaps other materials

that might come along that school-board member Vose doesn't like," said

Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin.

The proposal was referred to the curriculum committee during Monday's

meeting. The board will take up the issue again Oct. 12.

While Finn fears that the plan already has enough support to pass, Ahmuty

stressed a willingness to work with the school board to maintain the

district's current policies.

"We want to work with the district first of all to help them sort this out

and do the right thing," Ahmuty said. "They have good policies in place

already, and their professional staff has been adhering to those policies

... Their system isn't broke, so why try to fix it."